Plan to remove imam from mosque ‘prompted assault’

Victim ‘was bleeding from the head’, Longford court hears

Garda Michael Belton said he noticed a commotion taking place inside the mosque shortly after members of the local media had gone inside.

Garda Michael Belton said he noticed a commotion taking place inside the mosque shortly after members of the local media had gone inside.

 

A court has heard claims of how the planned removal of an imam at a Co Longford mosque led to a row witnessed by up to 200 Muslims more than two years ago.

Six men appeared at a special sitting of Longford District Court on Friday charged with assault and public order offences following an incident at the Longford Community Islamic Centre, Townspark Industrial Estate, Longford on August 21st, 2015.

Muhammad Abid Hussain, Quasim Rasool, Ahsan Rasool, Ghulan Rasool, Muhammad Khalid, and Mohammad Tariq, all of Cloverwell in Edgeworthstown, were all charged with assaulting Muhammad Asim.

All six pleaded not guilty to the charges before the court.

Two of the men, Quasim Rasool and Muhammad Khalid, were also charged with public order as a result of the incident.

The court was told both gardaí and members of the media were present on the day on foot of claims that a disturbance may arise.

Garda Michael Belton said he noticed a commotion taking place at about 2pm shortly after members of the local media had gone inside.

He said once inside, he observed what he described as the “remnants of a row” during which he approached the victim, Mr Asim.

“He (victim) was bleeding from the head,” he said.

“He looked like a man who had got a bit of a beating and his robe was ripped apart.”

Garda Belton said he also observed two of the defendants, Quasim Rasool and Muhammad Khalid, who were appearing to incite or “cajole the crowd”.

The garda said during the course of the ensuing investigation, he canvassed up to 40 witnesses for statements.

Many of those requests, he said, were spurned due to the sense of humiliation the entire episode had brought on the local Muslim community.

“People were more ashamed as to what had happened and where it happened, and they were not forthcoming,” he said.

The court also heard from the mosque’s former imam Asif Nafaz who said he believed a decision taken by the mosque’s committee to relieve him of his duties in the days leading up the incident may have prompted the row.

The mosque’s trustee and chairman Dr Syed Ali said when the imam announced his departure, one of the men, Ahsan Rasool, said the committee “should be punished physically” for the decision.

“There were women and young children there the other side of the curtain and my own family there. People were crying and shaking,” he said.

The case before Judge John Cheatle is expected to return on October 19th following an adjournment on Friday evening.