Saudi diplomat who molested hotel intern loses appeal

The High Court dismissed as “completely unmeritorious” an appeal by a Saudi Arabian diplomat against his conviction and sentence for molesting a hotel intern while he was here on holiday with his wife and three children last year.

Judge of Appeal Steven Chong said the sentence of 26 months and a week’s jail and four strokes of the cane handed down to Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, 39, was “actually lenient”, especially given the “dishonest” manner in which he ran his defence.

Alzahrani, who was stationed in China, had checked into the hotel in Sentosa in August last year but found the room too small. He asked for a bigger room and a guest relations officer was assigned to show him a suite.

While they were in the bathroom, he shook her hand and asked for a hug. The 20-year-old obliged as she had seen her manager hug guests and did not want to offend him.

Pinning her arms at her side, he began kissing her. She tried to push him away. Then he turned her so that her back faced him, and he groped her.

Later, he asked her for a kiss, saying he wanted to “put it in”. He then molested her again.

She eventually broke free and went back to work.

A colleague noticed she was behaving unusually and managed to persuade her to disclose what had happened.

Alzahrani maintained his innocence throughout the eight-day trial and appealed upon his conviction.

Yesterday, his lawyer Shashi Nathan played surveillance footage from the hotel corridor, showing the woman walking calmly out of the room and talking to Alzahrani.

Noting she showed no distress, Mr Nathan said this was not the expected demeanour of someone who had been molested to such an extent.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor April Phang said the victim was a young woman trying to do her job and should not be penalised for putting her client and institution above herself just because she did not run screaming from the room.

She said Alzahrani’s defence, that the woman had made up the allegations to extort money from him, “has more holes than a sieve”.

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