July 15th, 2024

Human trafficking case sees several charges withdrawn


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on June 23, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Charges against two of several individuals arrested last year in relation to human trafficking were withdrawn Wednesday in Lethbridge provincial court.
Mohammad Zafari was charged with sexual contact with a child, sexual counsel of a child, sexual assault of a person under the age of 16, a party with others to sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, trafficking in persons and sexual assault.
Zafari will only be tried for the charges of sexual contact with a child and sexual assault of a person under the age of 16 for which he has pleaded not guilty. His matter was adjourned to July 6 to schedule a trial date.
Another individual with the same charges as Zafari appeared in court Wednesday. Abdullah Mohammad will be heading to trial only for the sexual assault charge, for what he has pleaded not guilty. His trial date has been set for Oct. 7, 2022.
Another trial has been set in connection with this matter. Calgary lawyer Jeanine Zahara, who represents Mahmoud Neirabani, said that after having a pre-trial conference she was ready to confirm a trial date for a three-day trial next year. The trial is set for Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 2023.
“It should be noted for the record that the first available date for the court and Crown was January 3 to January 6 but defence was not available and then these were the next available dates,” said Zahara.
The accused is part of a group of men and two youths who were charged last August in relation to human trafficking investigation.
Police said several men selected and groomed a 15-year-old girl and took her to specific locations where sex offences took place. The same individuals had also engaged in sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl, and three additional victims came forward later in connection with the investigation.
The charges against all the accused include sexual interference, sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, and all but one of the accused face charges of trafficking persons under the age of 18. They were all released on bail shortly after they were arrested, and one of the youths pleaded guilty in March to two counts of sexual assault against two girls and was given a two-year deferred custody and supervision order, to be served in the community.
Several of the individuals have already pleaded not guilty to their charges and have either set trial dates or are soon expected to.
-with files from Delon Shurtz

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