Ibrahim Omerdic was convicted of solemnising an illegal marriage after he was caught marrying a 14-year-old girl to a 34-year-old man in 2016.
Ibrahim Omerdic was convicted of solemnising an illegal marriage after he was caught marrying a 14-year-old girl to a 34-year-old man in 2016.

Child marriage religous leader wants ban lifted

A disgraced cleric who conducted a wedding ceremony marrying a child bride in a secret ceremony has failed in a desperate bid to work with children again.

Islamic cleric Ibrahim Omerdic was charged with a forced marriage crime, but ultimately convicted of solemnising an illegal marriage after he was caught marrying a 14-year-old girl to a 34-year-old man in 2016.

The young teen was married in exchange for a $1480 dowry and told it was her duty to obey her husband.

Omerdic vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying he performed a mock ceremony only so the couple could be seen together in public.

He was sacked from the Bosnian mosque in Noble Park where he worked, had his marriage celebrant license revoked, and was given a negative notice under the Working with Childrens Act banning him from child related work.

The ban on child related work includes the religious and cultural education of children in his community.

He has not worked as an imam since and says he has been depressed, lonely and isolated.

Omerdic sought to overturn the working with children ban in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, but this week had his application dismissed because he continued to show no remorse.

VCAT deputy president Mark Dwyer said he remained concerned about Omerdic's vehement denials of any wrongdoing.

"Mr Omerdic remains strongly of the view that he has done nothing wrong. His behaviour therefore reflects a continuing lack of insight or remorse," he said.

"I have no reason to believe that Mr Omerdic poses a threat to a child in the sense that he would himself be physically violent towards a child, or would be the direct perpetrator of a sexual offence against a child.

"Despite this, Mr Omerdic was a religious leader within the Bosnian Islamic Society, and held a respected and highly influential position within his Muslim community. In that capacity, he knowingly officiated an unlawful marriage ceremony between 34-year-old man and a girl he knew to be well under 18 years of age."

 

Ibrahim Omerdic pictured at the Bosnian mosque in Noble Park in 2012. Picture: Stuart McEvoy
Ibrahim Omerdic pictured at the Bosnian mosque in Noble Park in 2012. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

Mr Dwyer said Omerdic had complained that the decisions against him have been unfair, unjust, and harsh.

"He thinks that he has been made an example of. Despite the conviction, he still says that he did not commit any crime. He is critical of the police and the way they conducted the interview with him, and implied that he felt 'tricked' by the video evidence."

A 13-minute video that captured part of the ceremony was uncovered by police.

In it Omerdic is robed and the couple are referred to as bride and groom.

The video captures the signing of a certificate but Omerdic refuses to give it to the couple because "she's very young, I can't give you certificate," he is heard saying.

"Because of my security, I can't give you this [certificate]. They going to knock on my door 'Why you give this to her?' … This will be here alright. When you … if you need it when you 18 years I give to you," he says.

Mr Dwyer said Omerdic believed that once a girl had reached puberty, she was of marriageable age and could be given in marriage.

"Mr Omerdic is a man of strong faith. However, his religious conviction leads him to a view that he has done nothing wrong," he said.

"It is that same unwavering religious conviction that therefore presents a problem for him in seeking an assessment notice under the WWC Act, because he fails to accept the seriousness of his conduct in marrying a 14-year-old girl and facilitating her sexual intimacy with a 34-year-old man."

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Following public outrage over the ceremony the Victorian Board of Imams has openly condemned such marriages, which are illegal in Australia.

The Islamic Council of Victoria has also released a statement condemning forced marriages.

shannon.deery@news.com.au



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