Belfast Telegraph

Algerian man caught in Belfast 'paedophile hunter' sting, court hears

Carman Azouz appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Tuesday (stock photo)
Carman Azouz appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Tuesday (stock photo)

By Alan Erwin

A man allegedly sent indecent images to paedophile hunters posing as a 14-year-old girl, a court has heard.

Police claimed Carman Azouz spent weeks engaging in sexual online chat with what he believed was a child, and also tried to set up a meeting in Belfast.

The 38-year-old Algerian national was arrested on Sunday at the suspected rendezvous point in Botanic Gardens.

Azouz, of Cameron Street in the city, is charged with attempting to meet a person under 17 for the commission of an offence.

He faces four further counts, including communicating with a person using the fictitious name "Sophie" for sexual gratification, and inciting her to make and distribute an indecent photograph of a child on dates between July 28 and August 17.

All of the alleged offences are denied.

Appearing before Belfast Magistrates' Court in handcuffs, an emotional Azouz shook throughout the hearing.

Bail was opposed amid claims he poses a danger to the public.

An investigating detective said a paedophile hunter group had posed as a 14-year-old girl for 20 days of online chats.

He claimed the man they communicating with sent pornographic videos and images to "Sophie" and told her he wanted to have sex.

"He also invited the alleged child to meet with him at Botanic Gardens," the detective said.

"This man has gone to such lengths and demonstrated a sexual interest in children."

Azouz claims it was a friend of his who contacted a website through a mobile phone, the court heard.

Defence solicitor Norman Shannon said the paedophile hunters then started "harassing" his client.

"He was telling them to go away, trying to block their number," the lawyer contended.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was told Azouz has suffered from mental health issues since arriving in Northern Ireland a number of years ago.

"He came from Algeria because there was a terrorist incident," Mr Shannon explained.

"His mum and dad and sister were all killed; he eventually got out of there, went to Europe and doesn't want to go back."

According to the solicitor Azouz spends his time at Belfast's two mosques, carrying out cooking and gardening work.

Refusing bail, however, Mrs Bagnall held: "At this point in time I think this gentleman is a danger to the safety of the public."

She remanded Azouz in custody, to appear again by video-link in four weeks time.

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