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Indian taxi driver gets bail in Australia in rape case

July 25, 2012 12:36 IST
A 25-year-old Indian taxi driver, accused of raping a young female passenger and then fleeing the country, has been granted conditional bail by an Australian court in Melbourne.

Melbourne Magistrates' Court judge Charlie Rozencwajg said that because Jaswinder Singh Mutta, who was extradited to Australia recently, had previously left the jurisdiction he would normally pose an unacceptable risk of flight.

But Rozencwajg on Tuesday said the defence argued that as soon as Mutta heard there was a warrant for his arrest in India he surrendered to the police and did not oppose extradition back to Australia.

The magistrate set a number of conditions while giving bail. He ordered Mutta to surrender his passport and not drive a taxi, to live with friends in Shepparton, to report daily to the police and to stay away from Melbourne unless he was attending court apart from submitting a 50,000 Australian dollar surety.

Mutta will live in Shepparton in northern Victoria with a man from his Indian village who last saw him six years ago. During the hearing, Prosecutor Julian Ayres told the court that there was DNA evidence of a crime and that when he was interviewed by the police Mutta did not claim he had consensual sex with the woman.

Defence lawyer Paul Jansen said that unlike high-profile criminals like Tony Mokbel, his client did not have the means or friends to enable him to flee the country without a passport.

Jansen said that the Crown case was weak and Mutta might spend up to two years waiting for a trial.

Last week, the court was told that Mutta picked up the intoxicated woman in Fitzroy on January 17, 2010, and on the way home she vomited in the cab. She offered to wash out the back of the cab, and as she was mopping out the rear seat he grabbed her and raped her twice.

During the assault he is alleged to have told her, "Maybe I have AIDS" and then added, "Just joking."

According to police official Shane Jenkins, when the police interviewed Mutta several weeks after the alleged rape, he declined to give a DNA sample or appear in an identification parade.

The police found two images of the woman on Mutta's mobile phone. Jenkins said that the day after Mutta was interviewed he had flown to Dehli on a one-way ticket.

Mutta, who was on a student visa, faces two counts of rape and one of indecent assault and was extradited to Australia last month, more than two years after he left the country.
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