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25 October 2006

Fury as freed rape suspect goes on run

medium_girl_praying_small.gifCritics say judge’s decision to release illegal immigrant on bail is a slap in the face for assault victim

THE family of a rape victim whose alleged attacker has been on the run for more than nine months have condemned the judge who granted him bail.


Mohammad Reza Telabi Zamani, an illegal immigrant from Iran, was arrested last November and charged with raping a 22-year-old student in an alleyway in Bristol in June last year.

Her sister said yesterday that the rape victim had tried to commit suicide four times since the alleged attack, and called the decision to release the suspect before his trial a slap in the face.

After his arrest, Mr Zamani, 36, was also charged with the attempted rape of another woman in December 2003, and was remanded initially in custody at Horfield Prison. But Judge Carol Hagen granted him bail when he appeared before her at Bristol Crown Court on December 21. He was electronically tagged as a condition of his release, and was required to report each day to a police station in Bristol. He failed to do so on January 13, and Avon and Somerset Constabulary began a search. Police also notified Securicor, the private company responsible for monitoring Mr Zamani’s curfew. Mr Zamani failed to appear for a court hearing on February 17, and police are still looking for him, with the help of the Iranian Embassy.

The student he allegedly raped, who cannot be identified, has since moved abroad in an effort to begin a new life, her sister said.

She told The Times: “We didn’t even tell her that he was on bail, never mind on the run, until July, because she simply was not strong enough to receive that kind of news. She tried to kill herself four times and would be dead now if she did not have family support.

“The decision to let him out was devastating for us, and must have been very frustrating for the police. We knew he would go missing again — he left the country for Iran after the attack.”

Mr Zamani was able to re-enter Britain later last year, even though his visa had expired. He was arrested in November in Bristol, where he is understood to have once worked as an unlicensed taxi driver. On November 10 magistrates remanded him in custody to appear at Bristol Crown Court, where he was granted bail.

The victim’s sister, 34, said that the justice system had let down her family, and expressed concern that Mr Zamani’s case would be forgotten. She said: “What is the point of her going to hospital and enduring eight hours of personal examination if they are going to let him go anyway? “It is scary to think he is out there. If he had been tried and got a lenient sentence, at least he would have been convicted.”

Under the Bail Act 1976, judges are expected to consider the likelihood of a suspect reoffending or absconding when deciding whether to grant bail.

Campaigners argue that given such considerations, Mr Zamani should never have been granted bail.

David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, said: “Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that granting bail to an illegal immigrant charged with rape is tantamount to encouraging him to disappear.”

Norman Brennan, of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: ”This is a very grave mistake by a judge who appears to have failed in her duty of care.

“Not only is this individual an illegal immigrant that should not be in this country, but he has allegedly committed two heinous crimes.

“It is precisely because of such poor decisions by judges that many women refuse to report crimes to the police.”


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