SINGAPORE - An Islamic religious teacher told his female student that she was a victim of black magic and molested the woman in a mosque while trying to "cure" her.
The man was then an accredited Islamic teacher under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme administered by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis). He has since been struck off the scheme.
The 73-year-old offender was sentenced to a year and four months' jail on Thursday (April 11) after pleading guilty last month to a molestation charge.
He cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the woman's identity.
As a religious teacher, he had conducted religious classes at various mosques islandwide.
The 36-year-old victim was a family friend and their families had known each other for more than 10 years.
Some time in 2015, he had started teaching Quran recitation classes to the woman and her friend every Saturday afternoon in a classroom on the third floor of a mosque in central Singapore. The two women were the only students in that class, the court heard.
The pair were having their lesson on Aug 19, 2017, when the man told the victim out of the blue that someone might have used black magic on her due to a "grudge".
He also suggested that this was the cause of her inability to conceive despite being married for nine years. He then inspected her arms and said her veins were blocked.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhamad Imaduddien told District Judge Carol Ling: "The accused said he treated the victim like a daughter and wanted to help cure her by chasing the jinx away.
"To that end, the accused told the victim to bring a knife and lime to class (the following) week. The accused also told the victim not to tell her family what he had told her."
The woman did as she was told and went to the mosque with her classmate a week later on Aug 26.
During the class, the man rubbed the lime on the victim's palms and claimed that there was "something" in her that prevented her from conceiving.
He added that he could treat her condition and told her classmate to leave the room.
Once they were alone, the man asked the victim to fully expose her upper body and molested her when she complied.
DPP Muhamad said the woman later "came to her senses" and pushed her molester away.
Soon after, the man called her friend back into the classroom and resumed the lesson.
After the class ended, the victim, who was still trying to make sense of what had happened, went to a homeopathy clinic for a second opinion on whether she was a victim of "black magic".
She alerted the police after the homeopathy practitioner said there was nothing wrong with her.
On Thursday, defence lawyer Gino Hardial Singh pleaded for his client to be sentenced to not more than 11 months' jail, stressing that the elderly man had a range of ailments including diabetes.
The man, who is out on $5,000 bail, was ordered to surrender himself at the State Courts on May 15 to begin serving his sentence.
In a statement, Muis said it does not condone the man's "reprehensible" actions which were "clearly not in accordance with the teachings of Islam".
It added: "His actions violated the code of ethics of the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, and he has been removed from the register and is no longer allowed to conduct classes on Islam in Singapore."
Those convicted of molestation can be jailed for up to two years and fined or caned. The man cannot be caned as he is over 50 years old.