SINGAPORE: A Saudi diplomat who was convicted of molesting a young hotel intern was on Friday (Feb 3) sentenced to 26 months and one week in jail and four strokes of the cane.
Bander Yahya A Alzahrani, 39, is not protected by diplomatic immunity in Singapore because he was attached to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Beijing.
The offence was committed on Aug 14, 2016, when he was on holiday in Singapore with his wife and three children. The court heard that Alzahrani cornered the 20-year-old victim in the bathroom of his Sentosa hotel room, where he sexually assaulted her for about 15 minutes.
He restrained the victim by hugging her, before groping her, kissing her face and neck and rubbing himself against her. He also forced her to touch him.
Alzahrani was convicted on Wednesday on three counts of sexual assault.
In sentencing, District Judge Lee Poh Choo noted that Alzahrani had molested the victim twice in the space of 15 minutes. “To a victim, one minute could seem a lifetime”, the judge said.
Although she questioned the “wisdom of sending a young female intern, alone, to show a room to a male guest”, Judge Lee commended hotel staff for coaxing the victim into telling them what had happened and for getting the police involved, when the hotel could have “hushed up the matter in favour of their guest”.
Defence lawyer Shashi Nathan said Alzahrani “maintains his innocence” and will appeal his conviction and sentence. The matter has been “deeply embarrassing” for Alzahrani, who is “a well-respected individual and a person of good character”, said Mr Nathan.
Alzahrani will remain in Singapore pending the hearing of his appeal. He is on bail of S$20,000.