Woman learned about being ‘guilty’ from TV, court told
A former law student who fled Iran for safe haven in Australia suffered a "miscarriage of justice" when she pleaded guilty to supplying a hefty quantity of meth, a court has been told.
Yosra Rabieh, 32, says she did not understand the meaning of guilty when she entered the plea for supplying a prohibited drug in a commercial quantity in 2019 despite almost completing a law degree in Iran.
She told a psychologist "no one told her what guilty meant" and "she only figured it out while watching a TV program", the NSW District Court was told on Wednesday.
She is now fighting to reverse the admission, but prosecutors have opposed the bid to retract the plea and have labelled Ms Rabieh's claims "a nonsense".
Ms Rabieh and her now ex-husband, Ali Maleki, were arrested in February 2018 and slapped with charges relating to supplying an alleged 36kg of the drug ice.
They had fled their home country of Iran as refugees five years earlier and made a home with their children in Australia.
The pair have since separated and both are in custody, the court was told.
Ms Rabieh's barrister said the mother of two had never accepted a "fundamental element" of the charge she was facing: that she "knowingly permitted" her husband to store drugs in the garage.
He also argued her lawyers at the time of the plea, Legal Aid solicitor Amarande Chauvet and a barrister, had not properly explored a defence of acting under duress.
There was evidence of threats made towards Ms Rabieh from Maleki and psychological problems she was experiencing at the time, Mr Phillips said.
Crown prosecutor Scott Schaudin said the lawyers had gone through the evidence "chapter and verse" with Ms Rabieh and their advice was sound.
Ms Chauvet and the barrister had considered a defence of duress, Mr Schaudin said, but there were significant issues - notably a phone intercept in which Ms Rabieh appeared to be laughing with her husband.
The phone call, which Ms Chauvet described as "the crux of the Crown case", was "entirely inconsistent with somebody being desperately in difficulty", Mr Schaudin said.
Ms Chauvet told the court that Ms Rabieh gave "inconsistent" instructions on whether she had "knowingly permitted" her husband to keep drugs in the garage.
She advised that she was aware of them, Ms Chauvet said, but " kept saying she never gave him permission".
Ms Rabieh told Judge Deborah Sweeney on Monday that despite her three years of law school she had not understood the meaning of "guilty" as it was a different concept in Persian.
"I didn't know if I plead guilty that means I have done something wrong," she told the court.
She also said she had encountered incompetent interpreters throughout the legal process, including one man she thought was drunk or on drugs.
Ms Chauvet said she believed Ms Rabieh understood what she was saying in a conversation prior to the plea and recalled no complaints about any interpreters.
Maleki is due to be sentenced in May on two charges of supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.
Judge Sweeney will hand down her decision at a later date.
Originally published as Woman learned 'guilty' from TV: court