BEIRUT: A Lebanese man who reportedly kidnapped his young niece was arrested Wednesday, a day after a video emerged in which the 14-year-old said she had willingly eloped and had been in a relationship with her aunt’s husband for over a year.
The Internal Security Forces said it apprehended 33-year-old Mohammad Abdel-Majid, “the kidnapper of the little girl Gaviotta [Saleh],” in an apartment in the Abi Samra neighborhood of Tripoli in north Lebanon.
Both Saleh and Abdel-Majid were taken to the local Tripoli police station for investigation. Saleh was then transferred to the Halba station before being returned to her parents. Abdel-Majid is still in custody.
In a video sent to Saleh’s parents, the 14-year-old said she wanted to clarify why she had disappeared after reports emerged that Abdel-Majid had kidnapped her and planned to marry her.
“He and I have been together for two years, and my mother and my uncles have known about it,” said Saleh, who hails from the northern Akkar town of Khirbit Daoud. She appeared composed in the video.
Saleh also said that her aunt, Hind Saleh Abdel-Majid, who has two children with her husband, would be receiving divorce papers “in two days so they could get married.”
Islamic law does not allow marriage between a man and his wife’s niece. Saleh would also need the approval of her parents or guardian before being able to marry since she is still a minor.
She denied reports that Abdel-Majid had abducted her, and asked her family to stop “making up stories” about their relationship.
Saleh ended the video by smiling and saying she loved her parents.
Her father, Bassam Saleh, reported his daughter missing over two weeks ago, telling a local television station that Abdel-Majid used to spend large amounts of time at his home. He held a news conference at his home in Akkar just days ago asking for her return.
He could not immediately be reached for comment on Abdel-Majid’s arrest.
The young girl appeared on local television stations, distressed and teary-eyed, as she was returned to her parents Wednesday.
Her mother, Helene Saleh, told MTV Wednesday that Abdel-Majid often sent her daughter presents and told her he loved her in a bid to entice her into running away with him.
This is the second instance in a month of a minor running away with a family member.
In January, 13-year-old Fatima Qourhani eloped with her maternal cousin. She too released a video declaring her love for him and her commitment to their relationship.
Kidnapping a minor is often used as a tactic to pressure the parents or guardian to approve of the relationship in order to allow the couple to marry.