Attorneys for Elgin cleric want photos, agreement excluded

Elgin cleric has been accused of sexual abuse

  • Mohammad Abdullah Saleem

    Mohammad Abdullah Saleem

 
 
Updated 8/18/2015 7:12 PM

The attorneys for a Muslim cleric charged with sexually abusing a 22-year-old woman asked the court to exclude from testimony a handwritten "agreement" authorities say he and the woman signed as well as certain photographs.

The items could prejudice jurors, said the attorneys for Mohammad Abdullah Saleem, a prominent Islamic scholar and founder of the Institute of Islamic Education, an Elgin school for children in sixth through twelfth grades.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Attorneys Raymond Wigell and Huma Rashid filed seven motions Tuesday, which Wigell said are an effort "to limit innuendo and focus on direct proof."

Prosecutors did not comment on the proceedings.

Saleem, 76, is charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, aggravated battery, criminal sexual assault and unlawful restraint after the woman, then an office employee, claimed he hugged, touched and massaged her against her will starting in October 2013, a month after she began working for the school, and continuing through April 2014.

Saleem, a native of India and naturalized U. S. citizen living in Gilberts, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

One item the lawyers seek to exclude is a "purported arbitration agreement" that authorities say Saleem, his accuser and another person signed on Nov. 18, 2014. Prosecutors say the statement included an admission by Saleem, but Wigell said the declaration is hearsay and would unfairly prejudice jurors.

The document, say defense attorneys, is not legal, does not detail specifically the conduct alleged and does not indicate who drafted it or that Saleem himself signed it.

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The defense attorneys also asked the court to bar prosecutors from reading the charges in the presence of the jury. Citing recent stories about celebrities and high-profile individuals charged with sexual abuse and domestic violence, they claim "the graphic and inflammatory nature of the name of the charges" is "unfairly prejudicial to Saleem."

In another motion, Wigell and Rashid argued certain photographs should not be admitted because they were taken by the accuser herself. The attorneys claim the time, date and content of the photographs can't be authenticated.

Wigell and Rashid asked the court to require prospective jurors fill out a questionnaire that asks questions about their views of Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent.

The hearing before Cook County Judge James Karahalios was attended by about two dozen people supporting the accuser and an equal number supporting Saleem, who next appears in court Oct. 5.

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