The Canterbury Bulldogs have welcomed former star Hazem El Masri back as an ambassador after police dropped all domestic violence charges against him.
Mr El Masri had pleaded not guilty when charges were laid last October, when his second wife alleged he had become aggressive during a dispute about the terms of their separation. At the time his Rugby League sponsors were quick to abandon a man who had long been seen as the game’s leading spokeman against domestic violence.
Yesterday all charges against Mr El Masri were dropped after police confirmed they were unable to substantiate Ms Douah El-Cherif’s claims.
Speaking outside the court after the hearing, lawyer Chris Murphy made sure the press understood clear what had happened.
“Mr El Masri has been totally exonerated. And he hasn’t been exonerated because somebody dropped off or something happened. The police have examined the evidence. There is overwhelming forensic evidence that shows his innocence,” Mr Murphy said. “There is a recording that he made of the event in which he allegedly misbehaved. It didn’t happen.”
The charges against Mr El Masri lef to the NRL immediately dumping him from his role as a brand ambassador and a spokeman against bullying. The former NRL head, Dave Smith, immediately went public saying there was no place for domestic violence in the game, and that the charges against him were “abhorrent”. Mr El Masri’s previous wife, Ms Arwa Abousamra, defended him throughout his ordeal, damning the NRL for such hasty action, saying “the knee-jerk reaction … was nothing short of shameful”.
The Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle immediately issued a statement welcoming Mr El Masri back.
— Samantha Brett (@samanthabrett) March 14, 2016
Ms Libby Davies, the head of White Ribbon Australia, who declined to comment while the allegations were before the courts, has invited Mr El Masri to reapply for a role as an ambassador for the group, which campaigns against domestic violence. Speaking with Ben Fordham on 2GB she said Mr El Masri’s ambassadorship had lapsed before the charges were laid last year.
The NRL itself has been less forthcoming, saying only that it was “happy to talk with Hazem” on working together again.
“I’ve always been confident with the legal system and you know, truth just prevailed,” Mr El Masri told reporters outside court yesterday afternoon. “I want to urge every lady, man, child – any person out there that is subjected to any domestic violence – to make sure they report it.” – Jesse Mullens
Photo of Hazem El Masri from Naparazzi’s Flickr photostream.