MADRID (AP) — Charges have been filed against an imam in northeastern Spain accusing him of threatening a woman who refused to wear an Islamic headscarf or abide by certain Islamic customs, prosecutors said Thursday.
The prosecutors are seeking a five-year jail sentence for Mohamed Benbrahim, a Moroccan, on charges of calumny, coercion and menacing behavior against fellow Moroccan Muslim Fatima Ghailan. The two live in Cunit, a town in Catalonia, a region with a sizable Muslim population.
The court filed similar charges against the president of the Islamic Association in Cunit and lesser ones against Benbrahim’s wife and his daughter.
In a statement to the court in the nearby town of Vendrells, Ghailan, 31, said Benbrahim had harassed her and campaigned to have her removed from her job in the town hall’s cultural department purely because she had a job, dressed in a Western style, drove a car and associated with non-Muslims.
She said the imam and his supporters also pressured her husband and children.
Ghailan filed a complaint in December, 2008, after she said she and her husband were accosted in the street by the imam, who told them they would be run out of the town.
Benbrahim was quoted by the Spanish daily El Pais as denying the charges and claiming Ghailan concocted the story. He said he simply felt the woman was not suitable for the job.
But the prosecutors office said the judge investigating the case had found the woman’s account credible and decided to press charges.
Ghailan and the imam cold not be reached for comment Thursday.
The prosecutors office said it could be a year before a trial is held.
About 725,000 Moroccans live in Spain.