A Muslim cleric, once decorated by Buckingham Palace, is facing jail after being convicted of ‘preying on’ and ‘abusing’ two boys at his mosque.
Mohammed Hanif Khan, 42, one of Britain’s most influential imams, became the first ever full-time Islamic minister in the history of the British prison service in 2001.
Highly respected, in 2004 he visited the Palace to receive a Butlers’ Trust Award from Princess Anne for his work in diversity. Under his grand title of Sheik Mohammed Hanif Haqqani Kareemi he led prayers and gave Islamic education to boys.
But a two-week long trial at Nottingham Crown Court heard Hanif Khan used his position of power at the mosque in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, to terrify, intimidate and abuse the two young boys in 2009 – then aged 12 and 15.
After three days of deliberation a jury found him guilty of two counts of rape and one count of sexual activity with a child. He was remanded in custody for sentencing at a later date.
During the trial – which has prompted high emotion in the local community – prosecutor Tariq Shakor Khan explained how both boys kept their abuse secret from one another, each believing they were the Imam’s only victims.
Mr Khan said the youngest boy was raped outside the mosque by some bins after being asked to take the rubbish out.
The boy told officers that at first the imam was stern like a schoolteacher, but gradually he began talking to him ‘nicely’.
But play fights soon turned sexual and Hanif Khan allegedly raped the boy repeatedly over a two-month period in one of the mosque’s room.
He said the sex attacks happened after formal prayers with others from the congregation when Hanif Khan would ask the boy to go into the private committee room and lay out his prayer mat.
After the last attack in October 2009 the youngest boy claimed Hanif Khan told him he was going to take him somewhere else and ‘do it to him specially’. The following day he told a friend and was advised to inform his parents.
Afterwards the boy’s 15 year-old cousin was asked if anything had happened to him when he had once stayed at Hanif Khan’s home overnight, at which point he too claimed he had been assaulted.
The teenager alleged Hanif Khan lay on his bed and asked if the teen could massage his neck, but when he complained he was not doing it correctly he said he would show him how it was done.
The 15 year old told detectives Hanif Khan began touching his genitals and then attempted to rape him.
The following morning Hanif Khan dropped him back at home with a warning that: ‘Whatever happened in the house, stays in the house.’
The imam was arrested in October 2009 after he had been the victim of an assault by members of the youngsters’ families after the allegations first coming to light.
Hanif Khan told detectives there was absolutely no truth in the allegations and that he had acted properly ‘both inside and outside the mosque’.
Prosecutor Tariq Shakor Khan added: ‘He said that as part of his pastoral duties he had sought to correct the boys’ behaviour in areas where they had gone wrong.’
As soon the allegations were known in the community there was an immediate revenge attack on Hanif Khan – as three men held him down and shaved off his beard to humiliate him.
Last October North Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court heard that Mohammed Jameel, 31, Mohammed Nadeem, 28, and Mohammed Safir, 32, held him down as he was shaved with electric clippers.
Jameel and Mohammed Safir were sentenced to a total of 26 weeks in prison while Nadeem escaped jail, after the court heard he reluctantly took part in the attack.
DI Tim Martin, from Staffordshire Police, said: ‘We welcome today’s verdict.
‘This has been a thorough and sensitive inquiry, and we realise that the case has been cause for some understandable concern in the community.
‘I would like to thank the victims and their families for their bravery in coming forward and reporting the offences to us.
‘After the offences were reported to us in 2009 a detailed investigation was immediately undertaken by detectives, who have worked closely with colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service.
‘Khan protested his innocence throughout the investigation, and during the court proceedings, but the jury did not believe his account of events and recognised he had abused his position of trust.’
Don Knapper, District Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Staffordshire, said: ‘This is a case of abuse on young boys by a man whom they and their families trusted.
‘Khan was in a position of trust and exploited the access he was afforded as their teacher to abuse the boys.
‘Khan protested his innocence throughout the court proceedings; however the jury disbelieved this and accepted the prosecution case.
‘Our thoughts are of course with the victims and their families at this time and hope that today’s conviction will help them come to terms with what has happened to them.’