Guyana political gadfly arraigned in child rape

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — A television broadcaster and perennial presidential candidate in Guyana was ordered jailed Tuesday on a child rape charge.

Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson ordered Chandra Narine Sharma sent to jail to await a hearing next month at which the judge will decide if the prosecution has enough evidence to put him on trial.

Sharma, 60, leader of the minor opposition party Justice for All, is accused of raping a 7-year-old child in this South American country about six years ago. He pleaded not guilty on his first appearance before the judge on Tuesday morning.

Immediately after the court appearance, Sharma was rushed to the state-run Georgetown Hospital after collapsing on his way to jail. His medical status was not immediately known.

Chief Prosecutor Shalimar Hack said her team is confident that they have a strong case against Sharma based on evidence from the alleged victim, now 13. She declined to release further specifics or say why it took so long to reach the arraignment stage.

Sharma was indicted on two counts of attempted sex with an 11-year-old girl in the weeks leading up to national elections in 1997, but was cleared of those charges.

Sharma's political party has failed to win a legislature seat in the last three election cycles. He has been a persistent critic of the government on his private television station in the former Dutch and British colony.

In early 2008, the government shut down the station for roughly four months after a caller on a live program said she might kill the president. Sharma said he has since installed a better system to screen calls.