A teenager, who was on trial for rape at the Berbice Assizes, was freed yesterday after the mixed jury returned a majority verdict in favour of his acquittal.
Shazim Bashalot, 17, seemed dazed on hearing the verdict and had to be prompted by his lawyer, Ravindranauth Singh, to express thanks to the judge and jury before leaving the courtroom with his waiting sibling.
On discharging him, Justice Brassington Reynolds said, “Shazim, you have a lot to be thankful for today. Thank your lawyer, who came in at short notice. I do not know what God you prayed to but he sure answered… If you were in school at the time, none of this would have happened. You are a young man and you have a future ahead of you.”
State Counsel Rhondel Weaver had led into evidence the testimonies of six witnesses, who attested that on February 3, 2009, the then 13-year-old Bashalot secured himself in the home of the then 12-year-old complainant before covering her mouth with a jersey prior to engaging in a forced sexual act.
Bashalot, however, said he had an alibi, categorically denying that he was at the scene as claimed by the virtual complainant, and an independent witness, Sandra Baldeo. He said he was at the backlands fishing at the time of the attack.
In his unsworn statement from the dock, the teenager, who was sent to the New Opportunity Corps, Onderneeming, Essequi-bo, on completion of the Preliminary Inquiry at the lower court, said, “Me old lady took me to the Fort Wellington Station in connection with the larceny of a bicycle. They put me in the lockups and Jethu loose me and took me to the CID room then ask me if me sex the girl. He took a ruler and start beating me. He say, ‘Talk,’ and me say ‘No,’ I say I ain’t do it.’ Officer Fraser tell me to drop me pants and he tek off he belt and lash me on me hand. When them carry me to court me hear me get a carnal knowledge charge.”