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Turkish man accused of stabbing imam in US mosque pleads not guilty

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Şerif Zorba, a 32-year-old Turkish man who is accused of stabbing an imam at a mosque in New Jersey on Sunday, has pleaded not guilty to an attempted murder charge, local media reported on Monday, citing a report by CNN International.

Zorba, a native of İstanbul, was arrested for allegedly stabbing Imam Sayed El-Nakib of the Omar Mosque in Paterson. The imam is reportedly in stable condition.

According to CNN, the incident took place during the first prayer of the day at around 5:30 a.m. while the congregation was kneeling.

Footage from the mosque’s surveillance camera shows that a person wearing a hoodie moved to the front of the room as a group of worshippers positioned in five long rows knelt down in prayer. The attacker stepped over other worshippers and then thrust his right hand into the back of the kneeling imam, according to the video.

Although the assailant tried to push through the crowd and flee out the back of the mosque, he was captured by congregants and turned over to the police, according to CNN.

Zorba, who is being held in pretrial detention, is charged with first-degree attempted murder, third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, according to a news release from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

The prosecutor’s office said they could not provide any further details on Zorba’s possible motive since the investigation is ongoing, adding that the maximum sentence for his alleged crimes is around 26 years.

He appeared in court before Paterson Municipal Court Judge Vincenzo Stampon on Monday and also pleaded not guilty to the unlawful weapon possession charges.

Zorba’s next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.

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