By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
A prominent Iranian Koran reciter and teacher is facing allegations of sexual abuse lodged against him by several of his students, who claim that he sexually assaulted them several years ago.
Iranian Koran reciter Saeed Tusi has vowed to fight accusations of sexual abuse
Saeed Tusi who is known for reciting the Koran at state events attended by senior officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has denied the allegations against him as "false and spurious," and suggested the story was suitable only for the movies.
WATCH: Saeed Tusi Recites The Koran In The Presence Of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Judiciary spokesman Hojatoleslam Mohseni Ejei said last week that "four plaintiffs" brought allegations against the 46-year-old Tusi, who rejects them. Ejei did not say specifically what charges Tusi might face, other than to say he was being investigated for "encouraging" moral corruption, but he confirmed that a court had decided that Tusi would not face prosecution for "acting" against public morals.
Ejei said a "religious and experienced" judge was being consulted and added that the case was being reviewed with "sensitivity."
"Some of the charges are difficult to prove. It is possible that the plaintiffs are right, but it is difficult to prove," Ejeie told reporters last week.
"We've always had such cases, before the  revolution and after," he added.
One of the plaintiffs quoted in a report published by the Persian Service of the BBC on October 23 claimed that Tusi abused him twice, "5 or 6 years ago," when he was "12 or 13."
The plaintiff, who requested anonymity, said he came from a religious family and that he met with Tusi because he thought that "Koran experts such as Tusi" could be a stepping stone to success.
He claimed that Tusi asked "unusual questions," including about puberty. Later, the teenager claimed, Tusi used the warm weather as an excuse to take him to a public bath, where he sexually abused him.
"He did some things that are so shameful that I can't say," the teenager told the BBC.
It is unknown whether the charges could include homosexual rape, which could carry the death penalty.
The teen said that out of "fear" and "shame" he did not speak publicly about the alleged abuse. He said he decided to speak out about what he went through after he learned that others had experienced similar abuse.
He said later they later filed complaints against Tusi.
"It's been five years, 5 1/2 years now, and we haven't seen any action on the part of the government and the country," he said.
The teenager claimed he and others have provided the court with strong evidence, including "two repentance letters signed by Tusi" and text messages Tusi had sent.
Tusi has said that was prompted to publicly defend himself after "the satellite channel of the voice of the Great Satan," a term that the Islamic republic uses to describe the United States, covered the allegations against him.
He appeared to be referring to the Persian Service of Voice of America (VOA), a U.S. government-funded media outlet, which was the first outside Iran to interview one of Tusi's accusers.
In an October 20 statement posted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on its website, Tusi warned that he would take "legal steps" to preserve his reputation, and expressed hope that he would be able to successfully overcome this "divine test."
The Koran reciter claimed he had never engaged in "such sins" and "actions incompatible with chastity."
The accusations against Tusi have generated numerous messages of support and criticism.
"Death to America," wrote one commenter on ISNA's website. "I ask people not to believe these lies."A Twitter user, meanwhile, wrote sarcastically that "holding concerts goes against the goals of the Islamic republic" -- a reference to recent efforts by conservatives to halt the staging of concerts in the religious centers of Qom and Mashhad -- "but raping children in Koran classes is in line with their religious upbringing."
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