A man who was convicted of online sexual abuse of a boy to satisfy his foot fetish was condemned to five years imprisonment on Tuesday.
Ahmad Ali Younes Ikbarh, 32, was found guilty of defiling a then 12-yer old boy by arousing himself sexually while viewing the child's feet on a Skype call, his lewd behaviour in full view of the victim who was left with no doubt that he was being exploited for the stranger’s sexual satisfaction.
Ikbarh was tracked down after the boy’s parents got to know of their son’s ordeal and reported the matter to the police.
Ikbarh, who later admitted to a foot fetish, was arrested and charged with having defiled the boy and two girls, then aged 13 and 14, whom he first contacted on social media platforms, using different profiles, including some under women’s names.
After getting in touch with the boy through social media, he then invited him to chat on Skype.
However as those virtual chats proceeded, the sessions became more “weird” as Ikbarh, whose face was never visible to the boy, made written requests for the child to send him images of his feet, the court heard.
At first, the unsuspecting boy obliged.
But as the sessions grew in intensity, he sensed that those requests had sexual overtones that were not appropriate to a person of his age.
Since Ikbarh kept his camera switched on during those sessions, the boy could see that he was arousing himself sexually, his genitals in direct view.
When the child tried to back out, Ikbarh blackmailed him, threatening to put his images on social media.
“It was a form of manipulation,” the victim explained.
The other victims had received an image of the male genitals but had not engaged in virtual sessions with the accused.
The defence argued that the facts of the case did not constitute the crimes upon which the prosecution had based its case.
However, Mr Justice Aaron Bugeja, observed that in the case of the boy, the accused did not simply want to see his victim’s feet but he also wanted the minor to see him masturbate.
The accused could have switched off his camera to block out that lewd image from the boy. But instead he chose not to, seeking sexual pleasure from the fact that the person on the other side was watching him.
At that point the victim realized that he was being used for the sexual pleasure of the other person, observed the judge.
The judge declared the accused guilty of defiling the boy. He was also found guilty of the lesser offence of instigating to defilement in respect of one of the girls as well as using electronic equipment to entice the boy to engage in sexual activity.
Following that verdict, defence lawyer Joseph Brincat requested the court, before meting out punishment, to summon the probation officer who had monitored the accused since his arraignment in 2018.
The probation officer testified that at first the accused was “shocked and blocked” on account of the time spent under preventive custody.
But gradually, he opened up and accepted medical treatment prescribed by a psychiatrist.
Ikbarh had taken up a job which he held to date and proved trustworthy, the witness said.
When making final submissions on punishment AG lawyer Angele Vella stressed that the defilement had deeply affected the boy who was shocked and scared.
He tried to “detach” himself from that episode and did his best to blot out the memory, but a “child cannot be undefiled,” stressed the lawyer.
The accused had ensnared the minors through fraud, sometimes hiding behind female profiles on social media.
Punishment was not only to serve as retribution but to send out a message against such abuse of minors, bearing in mind that their tainted innocence could not be reversed.
“Children were to be protected from unscrupulous individuals who hide behind their mobile to satisfy their sexual desires,” argued Vella.
On the other hand, the defence argued that the boy seemed to have been more upset by the threats and the pressure coming from the accused than by the sight of the male genitals on the monitor.
It was “only now” that the then-minor realized what he had been through, the victim had testified.
As for the accused, whose criminal record was not concerning, he had since addressed his fetish and was over it.
But the court observed that the man was aware of his problem and should have sought help beforehand.
“Now was the time for him to be held to account,” said the court.
The punishment was to reflect his grave behaviour that was condemnable on various levels, went on the judge, condemning Ikbarh to a five-year term of imprisonment and payment of expert expenses amounting to €2073.
AG lawyer Danika Vella also prosecuted