Kashmir snowshoe racer remanded to custody till Monday

SRINAGAR: Kashmir snowshoe racer Tanveer Hussain has been remanded to custody till Monday when the court will take up his case, Saranac Lake newspaper Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported. He shall remain in Essex County Jail in Lewis.

Hussain was charged with first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, by the village police. The complaint was filed by the girl and her parents. Police Sgt Casey Reardon was quoted saying that the offence took place at a location on Park Avenue in St. Armand portion of the village. After the complaint was filed, police arrested Hussain when he was walking around Bloomingdale Avenue. He cooperated with police.

Hussain under the leadership of another snowshoe racer Abid Khan were in the American village to participate in World Snowshoe Championships. Saranac is a village in New York that has aroud six thousand population.

Khan who has been taken as interpreter by the court has maintained that Hussain is innocent. Here is the passage that the newspaper reported after talking to Khan.

“Khan said the girl had followed him and Hussain around in an affectionate way during their stay here,” “He called her “a nutcase.””

“One day when they returned to the Porcupine Inn on Park Avenue, where they had been staying, Khan said they found the girl playing pool with other guests,” the newspaper reported.

“We didn’t invite her,” he said.

Khan said Hussain told him the girl tried to make an advance on him, but he turned her away.

“He says there was no contact at all,” Khan said. “‘She tried to come. I pushed her back.’ After that, he said he came back toward us and told her to go back home.”

Khan said Hussain’s interaction with the girl at that time only lasted about 30 seconds.

“It wasn’t like a half-hour or 15 minutes,” he said. “No time was spent together.”

Asked if he believes the girl made up the story because Hussain rejected her affections, Khan said “maybe.”

However, the newspaper quoted police saying that they had “enough evidence for probable cause”. Police Sgt Casey Reardon was quoted saying: “We’re confident in our investigation and the results of it. There were other witnesses. Social media was involved. There’s evidence that supports the charges.”

Khan has termed Hussain “a naïve” person who was unaware that the girl was minor and that he is unable to communicate in English.

The Kashmiri duo was welcomed as celebrities to the weekend snowshoe event because the local community put its weight behind them for getting an American visa to participate in the event. As Fred Mazzeo, the owner of Porcupine drove them from Burlington (Vermont) airport and offered them lodging free of charge, they were later taken to visit the local middle school where they showcased Kashmir. Students of this school had written letters to their senators seeking visa for the duo. Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau later initiated a crowdfunding campaign raising $1,600 in seven days to cover some of their travel expenses.

Justice Sheridan Swinger got Brian Barrett of Lake Placid as Hussain’s lawyer. Given the fact that Khan was a witness, it took some time for the court to take him as interpreter. He was finally sworn as interpreter.

Brian Barrett was quoted saying that it will take him a bit of time to “properly evaluate the case” and “make an informed decision on behalf of my client”. He has maintained that his client continues to be innocent till proved guilty.

Khan, the newspaper said, had his “hands shackled” while pleading before the judge not to send Hussain to jail. “Sir, please,” he said. “Help me.”

“Swinger decided not to accept a plea because he wasn’t sure if Hussain fully understood the charges against him,” the newspaper said. “He remanded him to the Essex County Jail in Lewis in lieu of $5,000 cash bail or $10,000 bond, less than the $10,000 cash and $20,000 recommended by the county district attorney’s office.” The newspaper said Hussain was still behind bars this morning. “A preliminary hearing on his case is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday,” it added.

Given the involvement of the local community in brining the Kashmiri pair to Saranac Lake, the newspaper reported that there is a wide debate on the issue. “In online posts, some were quick to rush to judgment against Hussain, while others noted he’s innocent until proven guilty. Others said they didn’t know enough about what allegedly happened,” it reported.

Jim Tucker, who directed the snowshoe races and coaches the Paul Smith’s College’s snowshoe racing team, was quoted by the newspaper saying: “My gut feeling is they’re being railroaded or Tanveer is being railroaded.”

Chloe Mattilio, a Paul Smith’s College snowshoe racer who met Hussain at last year’s championships, told the newspaper that the girl was following Hussain around during Saturday’s races.

“She asked for his phone number, but their phones don’t work here so she got his Facebook information,” Mattilio said. “I guess she was messaging him and said ‘I have a crush on you,’ and all this stuff. He said, ‘We are friends,’ but he was going to meet with her and hang out. It was all very odd.”

Also Read: Kashmiri snowshoe racer arrested for ‘inappropriate’ behaviour in US

Mattilio said the same girl was waiting outside the Porcupine on Sunday when she and a friend came there to meet Hussain and Khan.

“When we came in, she came in and knocked on the door and asked if Tanveer was there,” she said. “We said he wasn’t there, so she — and she was with her older brother I believe — they just started walking back toward town. It was very strange.”

“This is not the headache anyone wants to deal with,” Mattilio said of the situation. “Hopefully it’s not what it looks like.”

(This copy based on two reports that appeared in Adirondack Daily Enterprise on March 2, 2017, both written by Chris Knight. )

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