An imam in Des Moines, Iowa, USA has indulged in a cheeky bit of ‘lawfare’ in order to try to avoid prosecution for sexual abuse of a distressed and vulnerable woman, whilst in a position of authority over her.
He has said that he wasn’t treating them as a counsellor, had never met them before the religious ceremony in question. Because Iowa has strict laws against sexual relationships between mental health counsellors and patients, this Imam is trying to distance himself from that fact he was offering a service, although religious, to a mentally distressed person. If he is successfully able to claim that he was acting in a religious way rather than as a counsellor then he could reduce the severity of the offences that he is being prosecuted for.
The Des Moines Register said:
“An attorney for a Des Moines Islamic leader charged with sexual abuse and exploitation is asking a judge to drop two of the charges, arguing that they violate the man’s religious freedom.
In a motion to dismiss filed last week in Polk County District Court, Des Moines defense attorney Angela Campbell argued that Nermin Spahic, 40, had never met the two women who accused him of sexual abuse before the day of a religious ceremony that led to his arrest. The motion also says that Spahic never claimed to offer “mental health services” or counseling.
Spahic faces one count of third-degree sexual abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist. He was arrested in August after a 42-year-old woman and her 18-year-old daughter told police that Spahic sexually assaulted them during a religious ceremony.
Iowa law spells out that counselors and therapists are barred from “sexual conduct” with patients. But because Spahic never had a formal relationship with the two women, using his religious position to charge him should be unconstitutional, Campbell argued in the motion.
“The ceremony he was performing was not psychotherapy, nor was it counseling,” the motion said. “The sexual exploitation charges are therefore necessarily based on his religious identity and the religious nature of his relationships to the accusers.”
Utter tosh! It is quite plain that he is not being persecuted on the grounds of religion, what he is alleged to have done is mixed up his offending with Islamic religious mumbo-jumbo in order to abuse a vulnerable young women. Anybody in any position of religious authority who abused their position like this would have been prosecuted, it is not singling out Islam.
He appears desperate to distance himself from the allegedly therapeutic aspects of the meeting with the young woman and her mother in order to get a reduced sentence should he be convicted.
The Des Moines Register continued:
“Spahic’s argument is a common legal tactic used by defendants charged with crimes based on their profession, said Robert Rigg, the criminal defense program director at the Drake University Law School.
For instance, it would be common for a counselor charged with sexual exploitation to argue that an accuser shouldn’t be considered a patient under Iowa law as a defense to the charge, Rigg said.
The woman on Aug. 12 called Spahic to her house in Johnston for help with her daughter, who reportedly suffered personal issues, including depression and drug use, police and court papers said. Spahic allegedly performed an Islamic ceremony that involved “chanting and rubbing the body with oil,” court papers said.
In one section of the sealed minutes of evidence, prosecutors “inappropriately refer to Mr. Spahic as a ‘Voodoo priest,’” according to the motion. At the time of his arrest Spahic served as the imam – a leader of Islamic prayer services – at the Des Moines Islamic and Cultural Center Bosniak on Lower Beaver Road.”
To defend the prosecutors for a moment, it is quite possible that Spahic could have come over as a bit ‘voodoo priest-like’ and may not have known his position in the local Islamic Cultural Centre.
The fact that a woman brought her daughter to the Imam for help with depression issues makes it pretty clear that this was a therapeutic relationship and that Spahic seems to be wriggling and engaging in ‘lawfare’.
He’s up for trial on December 2nd 2013, it should be an interesting trial.
Des Moines Register