Elgin cleric faces new charges accusing him of sexually abusing a student

  • Mohammad Abdullah Saleem

    Mohammad Abdullah Saleem

Updated 10/7/2015 5:46 PM

A prominent Elgin imam, already on bond on charges he sexually abused a 22-year-old employee of the Islamic school he founded, faces new charges accusing him of sexually abusing a former student when she was teen.

Mohammad Abdullah Saleem -- founder and former director of the Institute of Islamic Education, a private school in Elgin for children in sixth through 12th grades -- was ordered held on $1 million bail Wednesday afternoon on charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.


Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo ordered Saleem have no contact with this new accuser and no contact with anyone under age 18. Cataldo also ordered Saleem to surrender his passport.

Saleem's new accuser says the cleric sexually abused her 15 to 20 times between 2001 and 2003, when she was between 14 and 16 years old and a student at the school, where he served as president and principal.

Prosecutors say the teenager moved out of state in 2003. The accuser told a friend about the abuse on Dec. 14, 2014, after she learned police were investigating Saleem on sexual abuse charges, prosecutors said.

A 2004 amendment to the criminal statute allows for the prosecution of sexual abuse cases involving accusers under age 18 to commence within 20 years of the accuser's 18th birthday, which in this case is November 2024.

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Saleem had been free after posting 10 percent of his $250,000 bail on the earlier charge. On Dec. 4, 2014, the 22-year-old former school employee told Elgin police the imam repeatedly hugged, touched and massaged her against her will between October 2013 and April 14, 2014.

Saleem, a native of India and a naturalized U.S. citizen, was charged in February with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, attempted aggravated criminal sexual abuse, aggravated battery of a school employee, criminal sexual abuse and unlawful restraint. Saleem, a Gilberts resident, pleaded not guilty. He has no criminal background.

At a previous hearing, defense attorney Raymond Wigell filed a motion to exclude a "purported arbitration agreement" which prosecutors say Saleem, the initial accuser and another person signed and which prosecutors say includes an admission by Saleem. Wigell also asked certain photographs not be admitted into evidence because they can't be authenticated and he asked that prospective jurors fill out a questionnaire on their opinions of Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent.

Wigell declined to comment after Wednesday's hearing.

Saleem's legal troubles include a lawsuit brought by his accuser and several other individuals who claim the imam "took advantage of his position of power and authority ... and the Institute of Islamic Education covered it up," said Steven Denny, attorney for the plaintiffs.

If convicted of the most serious charges, Saleem faces up to seven years in prison. Probation is also an option. He next appears in court on the new charges on Oct. 29.

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