Cleric, 60, arrested for marrying girl, 6, given as 'gift'

Credit: Reuters

A cleric in his sixties was arrested in Afghanistan after marrying a six-year-old girl.

Sayed Mohammad Karim claimed he had the blessing of the child's parents to wed their daughter, even going so far to say she was given to him as a "gift".

However, the couple claimed that their daughter was kidnapped from Herat province in western Afghanistan in June.

The wedding allegedly took place during Ramadan in front of 40 guests.

In a radio interview, Karim defended the ceremony, saying he had permission to marry the girl.

"The girl was given to me as a gift and we were married so I could raise her", Karim said.

"After the parents gave their daughter to me, they said, 'you can take her wherever you want'".

The girl has now been rescued and placed in a women's shelter.

Masoom Anwar, head of the women's affairs department in Ghor, said: "This girl does not speak, but repeats only one thing: 'I am afraid of this man’".

The legal age of marriage for women in Afghanistan is 16, but under Sharia law a child can be married off with the permission of their father or grandfather.