Muhammad Kamal Mustafa, who has been the imam of Fuengirola in the southern Costa del Sol region for the past 12 years, was convicted on Wednesday of "inciting violence on the basis of gender" by a court in Barcelona.

In a section of his book entitled Women in Islam, the 44-year-old imam discussed Islamic restraints "concerning the physical punishment" of women.

Mustafa wrote that only "specific parts of the body, such as the feet and hands" could be struck, and then "using a stick that is not too big so as not to leave scars and bruises".

Muslim jurists have traditionally recommended husbands use the siwak, a slim palm-size twig from the araak tree, to punish disobedient wives after all other avenues have been exhausted.

"The beatings must not be too harsh because the goal is to cause psychological suffering and not to humiliate or physically abuse," wrote Mustafa. 

Mustafa was sentenced to one year and three months in prison and fined nine euros a day for eight days.

Lawyer speaks out

His lawyer Jose Luis Bravo said he planned to appeal the conviction, saying it was "unfair" and the result of "media pressure".

During his trial, Mustafa said he was against wife-beating and that his book was merely a compilation of Muslim texts on women.

But the judge ruled that the cleric had sought to portray his opinions as those of a theological expert on Islam, presenting "his own views on the husband's rights to punish his rebel wife."

Disassociation

Two groups representing Spanish Muslims, the Federation of Muslim Entities and the Islamic Commission, had come forward ahead of the trial to state that the Quran and other religious sources condemned violence against women.

The trial was the result of a complaint presented in 2000 by women's groups.

Violence against women has become a sensitive issue in Spain over the past years.

The UN criticised Madrid for not supporting any comprehensive strategy to address domestic violence. There are on average some 16,000 complaints of domestic violence and 85 domestic murders each year.