A Syrian man accused of marrying his 13-year-old cousin laughed as he gave evidence to a Sydney jury.
His cousin Nadia Tabbaa alleged to 60 Minutes in 2014 that she was kidnapped, taken to Syria and forced to marry her older cousin in the Middle East.
However, Issam Alassad laughed at the suggestion he had covered up his marriage to Nadia to avoid embarrassment at her having left Syria, as he gave evidence from Damascus, via video link, to a New South Wales Supreme Court jury in Sydney.
‘I didn’t marry Nadia,’ the 33-year-old man said on Thursday.
Nadia Tabbaa alleged to 60 Minutes in 2014 she was kidnapped, taken to Syrian and forced to marry her older cousin
Nadia Tabbaa told 60 Minutes reporter Liz Hayes she was forcibly married off as a 13-year-old girl
Mouhammad Tabbaa and his former wife Pamela Tabbaa, are suing the Nine Network for defamation over that 2014 episode of 60 Minutes, in which their daughter Nadia said she was kidnapped at 13, taken to Syria and forced to marry a second cousin 15 years older than her.
Nadia, now 29, also told the program she had to live with her grandmother in Damascus where she went to school, but escaped back to Sydney when she was 18 in 2006.
Under questioning from the parents’ barrister, Clive Evatt, Mr Alassad said he got married in Damascus in 2015 to a woman he named and he produced their marriage certificate to the court.
Nadia’s grandmother was his aunt and he only met the teenager at family gatherings at the home.
Mouhammad Tabbaa is suing the Nine Network over his daughter’s allegations about a force marriage
Every year there were two feasts, so he would have met her about 10 or 12 times when she lived there from 2001 to 2006, he said.
During that time he was busy with swimming, university and work.
‘Was there any romantic conversation between you and Nadia or any suggested engagement or marriage or anything like that?,’ Mr Evatt asked.
‘Never,’ he replied.
On the occasions he saw her, she was happy ‘my aunty was buying her clothes or things for her’.
Mouhammad Tabbaa’s former wife Pamela Tabbaa is also suing over the 2014 60 Minutes story
Under cross-examination from Nine’s legal counsel Sandy Dawson SC, Mr Alassad said he was first asked to give evidence in the case about two weeks ago.
‘When did you first become aware there was an issue about whether you and Nadia were ever married or engaged to be married?,’ Mr Dawson asked.
Mr Alassad said that was also two weeks ago.
He found out Nadia left Syria in 2006 through his aunty who was ‘broken-hearted and very upset’.
The hearing is continuing.
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