In August, Des Moines imam Nermin Spahic was arrested after two women accused him of sexual abuse.
Imam Spahic reportedly abused the women during a religious ceremony.
An attorney for a Des Moines Islamic leader charged with sexual abuse and exploitation is asking a judge to drop two of the charges, arguing that they violate the man’s religious freedom.
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In a motion to dismiss filed last week in Polk County District Court, Des Moines defense attorney Angela Campbell argued that Nermin Spahic, 40, had never met the two women who accused him of sexual abuse before the day of a religious ceremony that led to his arrest. The motion also says that Spahic never claimed to offer “mental health services” or counseling.
Spahic faces one count of third-degree sexual abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist. He was arrested in August after a 42-year-old woman and her 18-year-old daughter told police that Spahic sexually assaulted them during a religious ceremony.
Iowa law spells out that counselors and therapists are barred from “sexual conduct” with patients. But because Spahic never had a formal relationship with the two women, using his religious position to charge him should be unconstitutional, Campbell argued in the motion.
“The ceremony he was performing was not psychotherapy, nor was it counseling,” the motion said. “The sexual exploitation charges are therefore necessarily based on his religious identity and the religious nature of his relationships to the accusers.”