Stoke-on-Trent imam 'tried to help unruly boys'
An imam accused of sexually assaulting two boys had a close relationship with them because he tried to calm their unruly behaviour, a court has heard.
Mohammed Hanif Khan, from Sheffield, told Nottingham Crown Court he was asked to help by the boys' mothers.
He added that he was pleased to see an improvement in one of the youngster's behaviour after his intervention.
The 42-year-old denies three counts of rape, four of attempted rape and one count of sexual activity with a child.
The offences are alleged to have taken place at the mosque on Capper Street, Stoke-on-Trent, where he was imam, between July and October 2009.
Prosecutor Tariq Bin Shakoor told the court at an earlier hearing that part of Mr Khan's role was to lead prayers and give Islamic education lessons to boys at evening classes.
One of the boys claimed in interviews with the police that he was singled out by Mr Khan after evening prayer on several occasions, Mr Shakoor said.
The boy was sexually assaulted in several different areas of the mosque not covered by CCTV cameras, he added.
Mr Khan, of Owler Lane, Sheffield, told the court in that one of the boys often got into squabbles but, with guidance, his attendance at the mosque improved.
He said: "He was very irritated.
"He would always get into squabbles or fights going into or coming out of mosque."
Defending Mr Khan, Robert Woodcock QC, asked him if he was proud of his improvement.
Mr Khan answered: "Very."
Mr Woodcock then asked: "Was he singled out or singular in any way in his response to you?"
Mr Khan, said: "He was a very troubled boy.
"He had temper problems and he was very irritable and was always moody to start with.
"Because of the close contact with his family and the information I got regarding his domestic situation, I sort of let him be free.
"To come as he wanted and to do what he wanted within the limits of education.
Referring to sexual allegations made by one of the boys, Mr Woodcock asked Mr Khan if they were true.
Mr Khan said they were not.
Mr Woodcock asked: "Did anything happen with him that could give him the impression that you were trying to abuse him?"
"Not in any way," Mr Khan replied.
The trial continues.