A Muslim imam was found guilty of 15 counts of criminal sexual conduct by a jury on Friday, May 2.
Mohammad Masroor was convicted for sexually abusing his nieces as children, when they lived in Detroit from 2000 to 2003.
He will be sentenced on May 21 and could face up to life in prison.
A circuit court judge has allowed the three victims to testify while wearing the niqab, the Islamic face covering that conceals everything except the eyes.
Masroor's attorney filed a motion to require the victims to reveal their faces while standing in front of the judge, in order to satisfy the defendant's right to confront his accusers. Judge Michael Hathaway denied the motion.
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” But the prosecution argued that Masroor's rights were not violated by the wearing of the niqab, because he is still afforded a face-to-face engagement with the accusers.
"Each witness will be present in the courtroom, cross-examined on the witness stand and fully exposed for all intents and purposes, except for a small fraction of her face," stated Assistant Prosecutor Khalil Rahal in his argument to the judge. "The jurors and the defendant will see the victims' eyes, which have long been recognized as 'the window to the soul.'"
Rahal argued that the defense motion was meant to put pressure on the victims. "[The] defendant seeks to intimidate the victims in this case, who accuse him of sexually abusing them, by requiring them to violate their
First Amendment rights to freely express their Muslim faith by making them remove their burkas and expose their faces to all in attendance," he said
Masroor, 50, a Muslim scholar from Bangladesh, has lived in different cities in Asia, Europe and North America.
According to Canada’s Toronto Sun, he was acquitted of similar charges in that city on March 27. He was serving as an assistant imam at the Baitul Mukarram Islamic Society when he was arrested and charged with sexually-related offenses involving five children in 2011.
Masroor was arrested and extradited to the United States in relation to the current charges a day after his acquittal, states the newspaper.
Masroor's trial in Detroit began on Tuesday, April 29. According to the prosecution, the defendant moved to Detroit from New York at the beginning of 2000. He resided at his brother's house, where the sexual assaults began.
The oldest victim was 13 years old at the time. The molestation escalated to rape shortly after his arrival, she said during testimony. She was being home-schooled during that time.
According to the prosecution, the victim later requested to go to school outside the home to avoid contact with her uncle during the day. But after a "small family meeting," Masroor convinced her father to start home-schooling her two younger sisters instead of sending her to school, Rahal said. The suspect then became the three girls' tutor.
The defendant abused the oldest victim while teaching her. During the day, her father would be at work, while her mother would stay upstairs to avoid contact with her brother-in-law due to the conservative nature of the household.
"[The victim] felt like what she was doing was wrong, but she didn't know enough. All she knew is that it was her uncle. All she knew is that he was an imam," Rahal told the jury on Tuesday.
The victim described the abuse as "uncomfortable and painful." She said her uncle would manipulate her, threaten to attack her sisters and use his authority to intimidate her into hiding the abuse.
She added that her uncle told her that nobody would believe her and that her parents would kill her if they found out she is not a virgin.
Masroor's sexual misconduct with the oldest victim continued even after he moved out of his brother’s house to join his wife and children in nearby Hamtramck. The abuse went on for three years until both families moved to Florida.
After moving to Florida, the oldest victim discovered that her sisters were abused as well.
All three victims reported the defendant to the authorities in 2011 after his own wife accused him of sexually abusing their biological children.
Masroor's nieces were living in two states at the time they reported the abuse. Two of the sisters testified without their niqabs, but one of them opted to keep it on when she was questioned in court by Rahal and Masroor’s defense attorney Mitchell Forster.
The Arab American News could not reach Forster for comment. In his opening argument, Foster described the three accusers’ reporting of Masroor in 2011 as a "coordinated attack," as the accusations were conveyed to the authorities within days of each other.
Foster urged the jury to look for signs in the victims' testimonies that would show that they are not being truthful. He said inconsistencies, exaggerations and forgetting important events could be signs of untruthfulness.
BY BECOMING IMAMS MUSLIMS CAN LEARN AND AT THE SAME TIME PRACTICE TEACHINGS OF THEIR PEDOPHILE PROPHET.