Tyne & Wear

Leazes Park sex attack accused Syrian men cleared

Mohammed Alfrouh, Omar Badreddin and Mohammed Allakkoud Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The three Syrians who came to the UK after fleeing the civil war wept in the dock after they were cleared of all charges

Three Syrian men have been cleared of sexually assaulting two schoolgirls in a park.

Mohammed Alfrouh, 20, Omar Badreddin, 18, and Mohammed Allakkoud, 18, of Newcastle, were cleared of all charges at Newcastle Crown Court.

Mr Badreddin was cleared of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old in Leazes Park, Newcastle, in May.

Mr Alfrouh was cleared of three counts of sexual assault and Mr Allakkoud of a single charge of sexual assault.

'Inconsistencies in evidence'

Mr Alfrouh was accused of kissing one girl in the park on two consecutive nights, and of also molesting a girl Mr Badreddin was accused of kissing behind a pavilion.

The 18-year-old insisted he did not know she was 14.

Mr Allakkuod was accused by one of the girls of holding her mouth and nose while she was attacked.

During the two-week trial defence barristers applied for the case to be thrown out, but it can now be reported.

They said that there were inconsistencies in the complainants' evidence to police, to the court and in cross-examination.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The men were having a picnic in Leazes Park

'Free country'

The three Syrians who came to the UK after fleeing the civil war wept in the dock after they were cleared.

Mr Badreddin came to the UK from Jordan as part of a commitment by former Prime Minister David Cameron to allow 20,000 Syrian refugees to live in Britain.

His family were being filmed by a BBC Newsnight team when the events unfolded. His older brother died in Syria and he left school at 14 to provide for his family.

Outside court a spokesman for the defendants said: "They came from Syria to live in peace - no trouble.

"They believe the judge is fair. This is a free country, it is not like Syria."

Ch Insp Steve Ammari said: "We thank the complainants for their support and help throughout."

Analysis: Katie Razzall, special correspondent, BBC Newsnight

When the jury forewoman rose to deliver their verdicts, she turned and looked at each defendant before clearly stating "not guilty". The relief in the dock was palpable.

The trial lasted more than two weeks. None of the men speak English and when they were arrested, an interpreter translated their police interviews. But in court it transpired that there were significant errors in what had been communicated. Halfway through the case, the defence barristers applied for it to be thrown out.

Omar Badreddin's father, Marwan, in the public gallery, began to cry when he heard the verdict. But when I walked into the Badreddin's home this afternoon, there was little celebration - and the tears they shed were not of joy.

The family told me ever since their son's arrest, they have felt humiliated and dishonoured, even though they were certain their son was innocent. In Syrian culture, this type of accusation is so damaging to their reputation, that even though Omar Badreddin has been cleared, they fear the stigma of it will stick.

BBC Newsnight has been following the Badreddin family for the past 11 months. You can watch a report on the programme at 22:30 on BBC Two - or catch up afterwards on iPlayer

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