A Turkish man accused of stabbing an imam at a mosque in New Jersey in the US has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempted murder, CNN reported on Monday.
The suspect identified as Sherif Zorba was detained for reportedly stabbing Imam Sayed Elnakib during Fajr prayers at the Omar Mosque in Paterson in New Jersey on Sunday.
According to surveillance video, the 32-year-old man moved from the center of the third row as worshipers were kneeling in prayer, approached the imam from behind and stabbed him.
Elnakib is in stable condition, CNN cited a mosque spokesperson as saying.
After the imam was stabbed, worshippers rushed toward the perpetrator who tried to escape through a backdoor.
Zorba was however arrested and 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.
In addition to pleading not guilty to attempted murder, Zorba also pleaded not guilty to the charge of unlawful weapon possession.
Zorba is being held on pretrial detention. His next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
The motive behind the attack remains unclear and the investigation is ongoing, the report added.
The prosecutor’s office said they could not provide any further details on Zorba’s possible motive, citing the ongoing investigation.
Zorba will appear in court again on Thursday. If convicted of the alleged crimes attributed to him, he faces a maximum sentence of around 26 years, according to the release.