By Erika Stark & Trevor Howell
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
A Calgary imam facing outstanding sexual assault charges in the United States says the allegations against him are a “character assassination” and he plans to fight to clear his name.
Imam Abdi Hersy, 46, is wanted in connection to sexual assault allegations that surfaced in 2006 when he worked as a respiratory therapist at Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury, Minn.
He vigorously denied the allegations Tuesday night in front of about 75 members of the Muslim community at the Abu Bakr Musallah in southeast Calgary.
“There were sexual allegations against myself in the States,” Hersy said. “This is not something new. It’s a case that’s cold. It’s not cold because of me, it’s because I exhausted every single avenue to clear my name.”
Hersy was accused of fondling the breasts of two female patients recovering at the hospital. He subsequently lost his licence and lost his job, and was charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct.
“There is nothing to hide,” he told reporters. “The truth is out there. I don’t have anything to hide. I want to clear my name.”
Hersy’s lawyer, Raj Sharma, told the Herald earlier this week that Hersy has tried to return to the U.S. “several times” but has been turned back at the border instead. On one occasion, Sharma said Hersy surrendered to American authorities at the border and posted a $10,000 bond, but was detained and deported instead of being allowed to continue to Minnesota.
Hersy said he will try to go to the U.S. again once he’s received his permanent residency in Canada. He sought refugee status in late 2006 after losing his work permit in the U.S.
“LET me in,” he said. “LET me answer the charges. If you have anything against me … let me in.”
At the Abu Bakr Musallah, other members of the community spoke out in support of Hersy, who has been outspoken about violence in Calgary’s Somali community. He organized a meeting between the community, outgoing police Chief Rick Hanson and elected officials earlier this year to discuss ways to curb the conflict.