Absconding Imam facing charges under POCSO Act moves High Court

Kochi: A Muslim cleric, who is absconding as he faces charges of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl, Thursday moved the Kerala High Court seeking anticipatory bail and claimed that the case against him was "false" and "politically motivated." 

A case has been registered against Shafeeq Al Qasimi, the former chief Imam (cleric) of a rural mosque at Tholicode near Thiruvananthapuram, under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for luring the girl to an isolated forest area and allegedly sexually assaulting her last week, police said.

The incident came to light after a group of local women had confronted the cleric after seeing him with the school-going girl in the forest, they said, adding that the cleric was absconding since then.

 In his bail plea, Qasimi, who was removed as Imam of the mosque soon after the issue surfaced, claimed that the entire allegations were "false" and "politically motivated." He said the girl and the family used to travel with him.

 "The present case is politically motivated and instituted at the instance of the president of the mosque committee who belongs to the CPI (M)," he said in his anticipatory bail plea.

 As a religious orator, he used to speak at the platforms of the SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India), a rival political party, it said.

 He alleged that the girl was being repeatedly tortured and persuaded to give "false statement" against him.

 Qasimi also said he was ready to cooperate with the investigation but apprehended custodial torture in the event of arrest.

 Meanwhile, police Thursday recorded the girl's statement in Thiruvananthapuram.

 A manhunt is on to nab the absconding cleric, police said.

 The girl and her family were yet to submit a former complaint against the cleric and the POCSO case was registered against him on February 12 based on the mosque committee's statement.

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