A Rochdale man has been found guilty of murdering an imam who he believed was performing “black magic.”
Jalal Uddin died after suffering head injuries in an attack in a Rochdale children’s play area in February.
Mohammed Hussain Syeedy drove the man said to have killed the 71-year-old – Mohammed Kadir – to the park before the attack.
Manchester Crown Court heard he hated the imam’s practice of ruqya. He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 24 years.
His alleged accomplice Mr Kadir, from Oldham, has left the UK and is thought to be in Syria.
The court heard Syeedy and Mr Kadir were consumed by hatred of Mr Uddin because he practised a form of Islamic healing in Rochdale’s Bangladeshi community which they considered “black magic.”
Spiritual healer Mr Uddin was targeted after it was discovered he was providing taweez, in which he made amulets to bring good fortune to the wearer.
Former Manchester United steward Syeedy was involved in surveillance of the spiritual healer and along with Mr Kadir, followed him after he left the Jalalia Mosque to go to a friend’s house for an evening meal on 18 February.
The court heard he did not agree with taweez and planned get Mr Uddin, who overstayed illegally after moving to the UK to work as an imam in 2002, deported.
When that failed, the pair wanted to expose Mr Uddin’s practices and Mr Kadir entered the park in a bid to dupe him into giving a taweez, which could then be presented to the mosque committee.
The court heard Syeedy was a “knowing participant” in the murder and his claim he had no idea what Mr Kadir planned and then carried out was “absurd”.
Mr Uddin was dealt at least five blows when he was bludgeoned in the face with what is believed to have been a hammer in the park. He later died in hospital.
The ferocity of the attack meant his skull was driven down into his brain and his dentures were broken.
When police searched the former engineering student’s home after his arrest officers found a “large volume” of ISIS-related material on his phone and other devices which showed he had been radicalised, the jury were told.
Giving evidence, Syeedy said he was not a follower of ISIS and was “disgusted” about the death of Mr Uddin.
Det Ch Supt Tony Mole said: “Although Mohammed Syeedy may not have delivered the fatal blow to Mr Uddin, it is clear that he played an integral role in the murder.”
In a tribute, Mr Uddin’s family said it was an “incredibly cruel and callous attack” on an “innocent elderly man” by “deplorable and cowardly” killers.
“Although Jalal was a Muslim who peacefully practised his faith, he had a love and respect for all religions, cultures and creeds, and the fact that he was murdered by someone inspired by ISIL shows the true nature and barbarity of this organisation and those who serve it.
“Weeks prior to his murder, Jalal had intended to return to Bangladesh and be reunited with his wife, children and grandchildren. We take comfort from the fact that the evidence acknowledges that Jalal was a greatly respected man, a caring and loving soul… Jalal was the greatest man in our lives; his smile will never be replaced.”