A Muslim leader in Des Moines, Iowa, who was charged with various counts of sexual abuse against multiple women is claiming that the charges violate his right to religious freedom.
Nermin Spahic has been officially charged with one count of third-degree sexual abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist after a 42-year-old woman and her 18-year-old daughter told police that he abused them during a religious ceremony. Spahic was arrested for the alleged sexual assaults in August.
Spahic and his attorney Angela Campbell argue that because he had never met the two women prior to the religious ceremony and he was not offering any sort of “mental health services,” no formal relationship was formed and using his religious position to charge him with sexual exploitation is “unconstitutional.”
“The ceremony he was performing was not psychotherapy, nor was it counseling,” said Campbell in the motion. “The sexual exploitation charges are therefore necessarily based on his religious identity and the religious nature of his relationships to the accusers.”
Under Iowa law, therapists and counselors are not allowed to participate in any sexual conduct with their patients, but Campbell is arguing that Spahic does not fall under this law because he had no formal relationship with the women.
The woman called Spahic to her home for help with her daughter, whom the woman claimed had been dealing with depression and drug use. Spahic allegedly performed a religious ceremony that involved rubbing the body with oils, and that is what the women are considering to be sexual abuse. Police arrested Spahic shortly thereafter.
While Spahic awaits trial in December, he and his lawyer are doing what they can to try and get the exploitation charged dropped on the grounds that his religious freedom has been violated.