Mohammed Haji Saddique, an imam from Cardiff, UK has been convicted and jailed for 13 years after he sexually harassed four young girls in a mosque.
The 81-year-old would call students to sit next to him during Holy Quran classes and would sexually touch the girls also slap students repeatedly if they made mistakes while reciting the lessons.
According to court reports, he also had metal and wooden sticks which he would use to pick the students during lessons.
Saddique was teaching at Madina Mosque in Cardiff for more than 30 years and was convicted of 14 offences which includes six indecent assaults and eight sexual assaults, all of which took place between 1996 and 2006.
Judge Stephen Hopkins sent Saddique for 13 years and ordered him to register as a sex offender. “All four complainants were very brave indeed in overcoming not only personal but cultural barriers which they faced in making formal complaints and giving evidence against you,” the judge said.
“There is a darker, deviant side to you which this trial has exposed. This was a gross breach of trust – parents sending their young, female children to be taught the Holy Quran by you.”
During the trial, Saddique insisted the allegations against him were a conspiracy by other members of the mosque. The judge said he has “no idea” of the harm his actions have caused.
Saddique was born in Hong Kong and moved to Pakistan before settling in Cardiff in 1967.
“You would attempt to maintain discipline and concentration by tapping or slapping the child sitting next to you who didn’t read correctly,” the judge said.
“Every time one of these small children made a mistake you would slap them until they got it right and slap them for every mistake they made.”
An investigation was first launched in 2006 when two girls came forward, but Saddique denied wrongdoing. It was then restarted in 2016 after two other girls came forward.
In statements by victims, who are now in their 20s, the girls spoke of the impact Saddique’s harassment had on their lives.
Caroline Rees, Saddqiue’s lawyer, described him as a “frail and unwell” great-grandfather whose community and family hold him in high esteem. “This is a man of 81 whose life expectancy is not good given his health and age,” she added.
This story originally appeared on The Guardian.