Police in Tamil Nadu say that they have arrested an absconding Muslim cleric, who had fled from Kerala after allegedly sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl near Thiruvananthapuram. Shafeeq Al Qasimi was arrested from Madurai on Thursday.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Ashok Kumar told news agency PTI that Qasimi was removed as imam of a nearby mosque after the assault came to light. Police have also arrested his relative, identified as Fazil, for helping him escape the dragnet of the law enforcing agencies. With the help of his relative, Qasimi kept changing his location after he left Kerala.
Kumar said that police had also seized the car of his relative, while booking the disgraced imam under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Qasimi had allegedly lured the girl before taking her to an isolated area in Vathura near the state capital.
President of the Tholicode Muslim Mosque Badusha filed a police complaint against Qasimi, accusing him of taking the minor girl to a deserted forest in his Innova car and raping her. A group of woman, working in the same area reportedly apprehended the imam after they became suspicious of his activities. When confronted, the imam reportedly said that the minor girl, whose face was covered, was his wife.
Al Qasimi, according to Manorama Online, is a noted religious speaker who was the imam of Tholicode mosque. He was also a member of the state committee of the Imam’s Council.
The mosque committee had conducted its own probe and found that Qasimi had indeed indulged in a criminal act by sexually assaulting the girl. This led to his removal from the mosque before the committee approached the police with a formal complaint.