A 39-year-old cab driver is accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger in Halifax.

While searching for another driver believed to have been involved in a string of robberies, an officer on patrol came across a taxi parked at the corner of Atlantic and Brussels streets before 1:30 a.m. Saturday, police said.

“Upon closer examination, the officer observed suspicious activity inside the vehicle that led her to investigate further,” said Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Cst. Pierre Bourdages.

After further investigation, police determined the driver had sexually assaulted his 26-year-old passenger, police said.

The driver was arrested at the scene and the woman was taken to hospital and later released.

Bassam Aladin Al-Rawi was held in custody over the weekend.

He appeared in Halifax provincial court Monday morning to face a charge of sexual assault.

After the brief court appearance, Al-Rawi was released on the court-imposed condition that he not operate a taxi between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The municipality, however, took it a step further, saying the driver’s taxi license will be suspended until further notice, meaning he won’t be able to operate a taxi at all.

Dave Buffett, head of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Owners Association, called the alleged incident “very, very disturbing.”

He said the charges are rocking the local taxi industry.

“It's unimaginable. It's hard to find words to describe how upset we as cab drivers are,” Buffett said.

He urged all taxi passengers to take care anytime they hire a cab.

“Before you get in a cab — daytime, nighttime, you know the driver, regardless — there's three numbers on the roof … you really have to note those numbers before you get into a cab,” Buffett said.

Police, meanwhile, are clear: this is not the woman’s fault.

“People have the right to be safe, they have the right to be safe to take a cab at any given point, whether it be during the day or the night,” Cst. Bourdages said.

“This is not about the victim. It's about the driver of that cab.”

Al-Rawi is scheduled to be back in court in July.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell