Muslim worship leader 'raped boy at mosque'

The Independent, UK/January 12, 2011

A Muslim worship leader allegedly raped a young boy on numerous occasions as he attended a mosque for religious lessons, a court heard today.

Mohammed Hanif Khan, 42, is alleged to have sexually assaulted the boy, who was 12 years old at the time, inside the mosque on Capper Street, Stoke on Trent, where he was employed as the Imam.

He is also charged with the attempted rape of and sexual activity with the boy's cousin, who was 15 at the time, as he stayed over at his home one evening.

Khan, who appeared in front of Nottingham Crown Court today wearing a black suit, white shirt and red tie, spoke only to confirm his name and to enter not guilty pleas to all eight charges against him.

He is charged with three counts of rape, four counts of attempted rape and one count of sexual activity with a child, all of which are alleged to have taken place on various dates between July 1, 2009 and October 16, 2009.

Opening the case today, prosecutor Tariq Bin Shakoor told the jury of six men and six women that part of Khan's job as Imam of the mosque was to lead prayers and to give Islamic education lessons to boys who attended evening classes at the mosque.

He told the court that in police interviews in October 2009 the 12-year-old boy, who cannot be named, said he was singled out by Khan following the evening prayer on about half a dozen occasions, the first of which was in around August 2009.

"On each occasion it happened at the mosque, usually after the formal prayers in the main prayer hall ," Mr Khan said.

"The defendant would request him to lay out his red prayer mat in a different part of the mosque. That is when the remaining prayer would be completed individually and not in congregation.

"He seems to suggest that usually the defendant would take him through the door marked 'private' and into the sitting room area, and into the room with cushions on the floor used by committee members.

"On occasions, then passing through another door in the big room, the classroom, going to the corner at the back."

Mr Khan said the defendant chose different places within the mosque that were not covered by CCTV cameras, one of which was the area near the building's bins.

"He (the boy) said once it happened by the bins downstairs. That, he recalled, was the first time.

"The defendant had asked him to place a bin bag into the bins then followed him into that area."

Mr Khan said the boy described the defendant asking him before the alleged abuse 'Do you want some?' and when he replied in the negative, the defendant would say 'For God's sake, just say yes'."

It was in October 2009, shortly after the youngster told his father about the incidents, that the family also became concerned about his cousin as he had become reluctant to attend the mosque after spending the night at Khan's home.

Mr Khan said the 12-year-old finally broke the news of the abuse to his father by telling him "Dad, in the mosque Sheikh Sahib has been taking my trousers down."

The youngster, who is now 13, said the abuse went on for around two months before finally coming to an end.

Mr Khan said: "The last occasion it happened was on Friday October 16, 2009, after which the defendant told him that he was then going to take him somewhere else and 'do it to him specially'.

"After that last occasion, the boy said he completed his prayer, he went to the toilet downstairs washed himself, his bottom and anus as well, then he returned to class."

Mr Khan said the boy told police in his interviews that the defendant was considered a very important figure among the Muslim community.

"In that interview he gives an account of his knowledge of the defendant, his position, his roles in public life and how he perceived him to be a powerful man of high standing," Mr Khan said.

"He says his family trusted him and the defendant had a strong following. Such was that following that people would be prepared to die for him."

Mr Khan said the defendant, of Owler Lane, Sheffield, held the professional title Sheik Mohammed Hanif Haqqani Kareemi and had an "enormous amount of respect and authority, particularly within the Muslim community".

He was arrested on October 19, 2009, at Hanley Police station, Mr Khan said.

When the 12-year-old boy's family approached his cousin, who is now 17, about the defendant he said: "He tried to take my trousers down."

Mr Khan said the boy had spent the night at Khan's home in the Meir area of Stoke in July 2009 to help him pack prior to a house move to Chester.

It was as he was washing dishes that the defendant began to touch him in a sexual way, he said.

"When he was doing this the defendant approaches him from behind and starts rubbing his penis area on the legs and bottom area of the boy," Mr Khan said.

"He said he could feel the defendant's penis getting erect and the defendant saying to him 'Do you like this'?"

The youngster, Mr Khan said, was in shock and did not know what to say and the defendant went upstairs.

Later that night, after Khan had shown the boy the room in which he would be sleeping, the boy found him lying on the bed and said Khan asked him for a massage.

He did what he was told, Mr Khan said, and the defendant then started to massage the youngster.

"He laid on the bed and the defendant continued to massage him, then placed a hand on his neck, asked him to move his leg, touched him in the area of his penis and the defendant then took his belt off, then his trousers and boxer shorts."

After producing a bottle of oil and rubbing it on the youngster's bottom, the defendant then attempted to rape him, Mr Khan said.

When the boy objected the defendant stopped and left him alone, telling him the next morning that whatever happened and was said in the house should stay in the house.

Mr Khan told the jury that the boy's police interviews would be played to them through the course of the trial, as well as CCTV footage from inside the mosque.

The trial was adjourned for the day and will resume tomorrow.

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