Kashmiri snowshoe athlete Tanveer Hussain Parra has been indicted in the US for allegedly having inappropriate contact with a 12-year-old girl.
The Essex County grand jury charged the 25-year-old with one count of first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and misdemeanour, according to a statement from Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague.
"Tanveer is alleged to have subjected a 12-year-old female to sexual contact and engaged in inappropriate conversations with said child during the time he was in Saranac Lake," Sprague said.
Tanveer denied the charges and declined a plea deal that would have let him return to India.
Tanveer's lawyer, Brian Barrett of Lake Placid, said he and Tanveer knew the case was going to be presented to a grand jury last week. Asked about the indictment, he said, "I look forward to testing the evidence in front of a jury," and declined to elaborate.
"(Tanveer) is presumed innocent by law, and certainly no one has any reason not to presume him innocent in this case," Barrett said.
An indictment is when a grand jury, a specialty jury of citizens who handle multiple cases, decides there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Tanveer is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on Friday in Elizabethtown before Clinton County Judge Keith Bruno, who has been assigned to the case.
Tanveer's arrest earlier this year made headlines around the world. He and his manager, Abid Khan, had fought to get to the World Snowshoe Championships, and the local community had fought to get them here.
The US Embassy in New Delhi initially denied their visa applications. Some people thought that decision had to do with President Donald Trump's executive order barring travel into the U.S. from seven foreign countries — even though India wasn't one of them — since the visa denial happened the same weekend the order was issued. US officials later said the denial had no connection to Trump's executive order. They reportedly feared Tanveer and Abid might not return home due to a lack of "strong ties" to their home country.
Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau reached out for help from New York's senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who contacted the embassy in New Delhi. Tanveer and Abid were later told they could reapply for visas and were eventually approved to travel here.
When they arrived in February, they got a celebrity welcome. Rabideau hosted a reception for them in the village offices. They were given free lodging at the Porcupine Inn bed and breakfast. Restaurants offered them free meals. Local residents donated more than $1,600 on a crowdsourcing website the mayor started to cover some of their travel expenses.
Tanveer was taking English lessons in Saranac Lake on Tuesday when Shapiro heard of the indictment. He said Tanveer spends his days praying, exercising and talking to family in Kashmir.
"He's running. He's biking. He went to the beach up at Buck Pond with some friends yesterday," Shapiro said. "He's made quite a few friends in Saranac Lake. Everybody that meets him and talks to him says, 'He's a really nice guy. This is insane what's going on.'"
A condition of Tanveer release from jail requires him to stay in Essex or Franklin counties. In late April, Barrett asked the court to change the conditions so he could travel to a Kashmiri community in New York City that could support him. IANS/Adirondackdailyenterprise.com