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Attorney: Language barrier makes refugee accused of groping Nashua girls incompetent to stand trial

Union Leader Correspondent

October 20. 2017 11:33PM
Mohammod Rafique 

NASHUA — The defense attorney for a Burma refugee accused of inappropriately touching three young girls in Nashua is claiming his client is incompetent to stand trial because of communication barriers.

Attorney Anthony Naro claims in court records that Mohammod Rafique, who speaks Rohingya, has been unable to promptly obtain interpreters to assist with the judicial process.

Rafique, 27, of 50 Lake St., Apt. C, is accused of engaging in sexual contact with a 10-year-old girl and a 7-year-old girl during a sleepover at a city residence on Aug. 26. He is also accused of simple assault against a 12-year-old girl at the same sleepover, and attempting to kiss a 9-year-old girl, according to court records.

“Mr. Rafique, in addition to being a member of a stateless, ethnic minority subject to persecution in his homeland, speaks a language that is quite rare to find in New Hampshire,” Naro writes in court documents, adding the one interpreter for the Language Bank that the defense is aware of currently has a conflict with the New Hampshire Public Defender and cannot be retained for services.

For now, Naro is using the services of interpreters by phone, he explained, describing this as a “logistical nightmare” to coordinate with the Hillsborough County House of Corrections.

Rafique is facing two felony charges of felonious sexual assault, three counts of simple assault and one count of attempted simple assault.

The four girls told police that Rafique offered the girls money to go home with him and sleep at his residence, according to a prosecutor synopsis. Rafique, a refugee immigrant from Burma, also known as Myanmar, in Southeast Asia, is a friend of one of the victim’s mothers.

The communication problems have rendered Rafique incompetent to stand trial, according to Naro, who asked the court to reduce Rafique’s bail so that they would have a better chance of communicating.

“However, it is an undeniable fact that counsel is presently handcuffed when it comes to communicating with their client. The inability to consult with Mr. Rafique not only renders his attorney ineffective, but also makes him incompetent to stand trial … ,” writes Naro.

Judge Jacalyn Colburn of Hillsborough County Superior Court ruled this week that Rafique’s bail will remain at $15,000 cash or surety. However, she did order the jail to obtain the services of a Rohingya interpreter to assess Rafique’s medical needs, according to court records.

“The defendant’s history of the Rohingya people, while interesting, does not seem particularly relevant, as surely he is not suggesting that his status as a member of an oppressed people’s diaspora gives him any license to grope young children,” Kent Smith, first assistant county attorney, writes in court documents. “It does, however, demonstrate that he is adept at fleeing when he feels the need — first from Myanmar and then from Cambodia. The state is concerned that, if released, (Rafique) will disappear into one of the many Burmese enclaves which dot the country.”

The victims told authorities that Rafique was allegedly drunk when he became “touchy, touchy,” with them. He is accused of touching the buttocks of two girls, and touching the upper inner thigh of another girl “for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification,” state court records.

He is also accused of kissing one of the girls on her cheek, and attempting to kiss another girl on the cheek, “but she blocked his attempt with her hand and told him ‘no,’” state the complaints.

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