Imam who fled after historical sex attack is jailed
A disgraced imam who fled to Bangladesh after being convicted of historical sex attacks on two girls he tutored has been jailed for 11 and a half years in his absence.
Hifiz Rahman was captured on CCTV boarding a plane to Dhaka the day after a Wolverhampton Crown Court jury found him guilty of five counts of indecent assaults on victims as young as six.
During his sentencing at the court on Thursday it emerged that Rahman had a Bangladeshi passport, which the British authorities knew nothing about, allowing him to flee.
Rahman, who had diabetes, was on bail during the two criminal trials which saw him convicted, and was unable to attend some days after complaining of feeling unwell.
Sentencing the 58-year-old for a "gross breach of trust", Judge Nicholas Cartwright said Rahman had "deceived" not only the parents of his victims, but also his own solicitors and barrister at trial by lying about being sick.
Rahman had been on conditional bail to stay at his home in Ballard Road, Netherton, Dudley, and had surrendered his British passport before trial.
The father-of-seven, whose close family live in the UK, was excused from the last day of the second trial when the jury returned guilty verdicts on October 7, claiming he was again too sick.
Setting out the circumstances of Rahman's flight from Britain, the judge said that when police went to check later that day that he was sticking to his bail conditions, they were told he was sick by a "member of the family".
But it emerged that officers "didn't see him personally", and the next day his son rang police to report he had "disappeared".
A trawl of CCTV at Birmingham Airport confirmed he boarded a flight on October 8.
Police said attempts to return Rahman to the UK are continuing.
Judge Cartwright, addressing Rahman's barrister Tariq Shakoor, said: "He is a man who demonstrated he was able to deceive.
"He was able to deceive the parents of the children sent to the mosque, he deceived those who wrote character references on his behalf, and also the GP he went to see on Friday (October 7).
"It is no surprise he was able to deceive your instructing solicitors, and yourself."
Rahman, a grandfather of 10, was imam of Queens Cross Mosque in Dudley at the time of the attacks and had abused his youngest victim as she read the Koran.
A police investigation was launched in 2012 when the woman came forward to make a complaint, but following his arrest he denied knowing the girl.
Further police inquiries led officers to a second victim and he was charged with more offences in January this year.
During sentencing, Mr Shakoor said he was "duty-bound" to offer some mitigation for his client but added: "Two women here have been sexually abused by their teacher, an imam, at the mosque, while young children."
He added: "By his absconding, he's adding to their suffering, no doubt, as they are longing for closure."
Mr Shakoor said many had undoubtedly "benefited from his guidance" over the years but that his offending had "brought shame" on himself and his community.
Sentencing, Judge Cartwright said: "What he did was a gross breach of the trust placed in him."
He added that the sexual abuse carried out inside the mosque during one-to-one lessons was "planned" and "repeated" over a period of years during the 1980s.
He added that the abuse by Rahman, as a trusted and respected imam, had "blighted" the lives of his victims into adulthood, leading at least one to question her faith.
Speaking after sentencing, one of the victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: "I'm pleased with the sentence - I didn't think he'd get that much.
"It's over for now, we just need to get him back here to serve his time.
"His life is over and mine can now restart."
She added: "The police are going to do everything they can and I'm sure he will be back."