Indian-origin doctor refutes rape charges

Sydney, Sep 16 (IANS) A 39-year-old Indian-origin doctor has pleaded not guilty in an Australian court to charges of raping two women during consultations.

Manu Maimbilly Gopal, who hails from Kochi in the south Indian state of Kerala, allegedly digitally penetrated two women illegally when they complained of abdominal pain during separate visits to a Sunbury medical clinic in Melbourne in February last year, the Melbourne Age reported Monday.

He was arrested at Melbourne international airport while waiting for an India-bound flight March 1.

According to the report, when police contacted him Feb 29 about the sexual harassment charges, Gopal changed his pre-booked flight to Kochi from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. March 1 to avoid arrest.

"I really got panicked. I didn't know what to do, so I can't think properly. I just wanted to flee from this situation," Gopal was quoted as saying when he was asked why he wanted to flee the country.

Prosecutor Lesley Taylor told the supreme court in Melbourne that Gopal wanted to conduct the examinations for his own sexual gratification.

"The prosecution relies upon this evidence as an implied admission that he is responsible for the offences charged," the Age report quoted Taylor quoted as saying.

"This trial is not about whether Dr Gopal was a good doctor. This trial is not about whether Gopal was a bad doctor," Taylor said.

"This trial is not about whether Gopal should have been allowed to practise in Australia under the limited registration programme."

She said the question was not whether in each case the vaginal examination carried out by the doctor was "competent or incompetent".

Taylor told the court that the second alleged victim, a mother of four, claimed Gopal, during examination, asked her: "Do you want me to do it softer? Do you want me to do it faster? Does it feel good now?"

The patient said that initially she thought it was a language barrier and she felt a "little bit odd".

"And then there were just too many things between what he said and what he was doing that were not right," one of the victims quoted as saying.

Defence lawyer Michael Tovey argued otherwise.

"What I put to you there was if Gopal is awkward, if he has a manner which creates stress and embarrassment, then the fact that two persons are distressed is no more remarkable than the fact that one person is distressed," Tovey told the court.

"It is clear that Dr. Gopal had general anxiety associated with practice in Australia and particularly upon these occasions because he had the additional responsibility of being released without supervision in the clinic by himself," he said.

Tovey told the court that Gopal's wife and children live in India and he was isolated in Australia when he tried to leave the country.

"He is faced with the prospect of being stranded in Australia during a police investigation with no job and no family and, in those circumstances, there doesn't seem to be any dispute that it was at the last moment that he made the wrong decision," he was quoted as saying.

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