LONDON: A 22-year-old man accused of killing a British-Bangladeshi imam in East London has pleaded not guilty. Muzahid Ali, one of three men charged with murdering Mohammed Aqil Mahdi, appeared at Southwark Crown Court on Friday and was remanded in custody.
The other defendants, Majid Ahmed, 18, and Abul Kashem, 28, did not appear for their plea hearings. Ahmed had been transferred to the Category-A Belmarsh prison and his “papers had been lost in transition,” said Judge Deborah Taylor.
Prosecutor Gareth Patterson QC said Kashem was listed as “not attending.” His attorney, Gordon Benjamin, said his client was “unwell and complaining of stomach pains.” Judge Taylor said Kashem was “fit to attend court” and there was “no justification” for not doing so.
Ahmed and Kashem were ordered to attend their arraignment, which was set for May 6, days before the time limit on their custody is due to expire. All three of the accused were previously refused bail and have been in custody since they were charged on Nov. 10.
Ali spoke only twice during his court appearance on Friday, once to answer “yes” when asked by the judge whether he had spoken to counsel, and then to plead “not guilty.”
Paramedics found Mahdi, 22, who lived in north London, with stab wounds on Nov. 6, police said. He was unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene.
Mahdi was in his second year at Greenwich University, where he was studying accounting and finance. He also taught the Qur’an in his spare time and had led Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan at various mosques around London for the past nine years.
“He wanted to dedicate his time by making a difference and impacting young children and teenagers’ lives by teaching the Qur’an alongside his studies,” his mother, Shamam Chowdhury, told Arab News.
An online fund has been set up in Mahdi’s memory to raise money for a mosque in Egypt where he studied in 2019 to receive his ijazah, a license for those who want to teach Islam’s holy book.
“Aqil was a very special student of mine whom I had the blessed opportunity to teach and mentor for the past 10 years,” said Ishaaq Abu Rahmiyyah Jasat, Mahdi’s Qur’an teacher. “Words cannot describe how much he meant to me.”
He added that his student always tried hard and excelled in his Islamic journey, and recited the Qur’an in a melodious and soothing tone.
“Despite his hardships, he always had a good heart and cared so much for others,” he said.