Almost a month after a Kerala Imam, Shafiq Al Qassimi, was booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) act for sexually assaulting a minor girl, the Kerala police have managed to nab him from a lodge in Madurai on Thursday evening. The Imam was nabbed by a shadow team lead by the Nedumangad Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP), D Ashokan.
Speaking to TNM on their way from Madurai to Thiruvananthapuram, Ashokan said that the arrest of the Imam will only be recorded on Thursday night after reaching the Nedumangad station. "We have taken him into custody and the arrest will be recorded tonight. He will be presented before the Nedumangad court on Friday," said D Ashokan.
A case was registered against the accused, who was Chief Imam of the Tholicode Muslim Mosque and a member of the Kerala Imams Council, on February 12, at least a week after the incident, based on a complaint by the President of the Tholicode Muslim Mosque.
The 15-year-old minor girl was sexually abused by the 40-year-old man in his car. He had taken her to an isolated forest area in Vithura, Thiruvananthapuram, where he sexually abused her. Women workers, who were in the area, had questioned what a school-going girl was doing with an older man. The Imam then told them that the girl was his wife, but the women did not believe him. However, the women and the President of the mosque persisted with the case.
The girl's medical reports had proven that she had been sexually abused, which the Nedumangad DySP also confirmed to TNM.
The Imam had been absconding ever since a POCSO case was booked against him. Following this, the Kerala police were divided into 5 teams and had begun searching for the Imam in Kerala as well as in Bengaluru, after they got reports that the Imam had fled to Bengaluru.
The 15-year-old survivor had been transferred to a shelter home under the social justice department where she had given her statement against the Imam following counselling. She is under the care of the Child Welfare Committee after her family attempted to hide the fact that she had been abused by the Imam. Though the parents moved the High Court to regain the custody of their child, the court overruled this and allowed the CWC to retain custody of the survivor.