Afghan evacuee convicted of molesting child at Marine refugee camp

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Afghan evacuee convicted of molesting child at Marine refugee camp

An Afghan refugee who worked alongside US troops and escaped the Taliban was convicted of molesting a 3-year-old girl at a Marine Corps refugee camp in Quantico, Va., the Department of Justice announced

Mohammed Tariq, 24, was found guilty on Friday of sexually assaulting the 3-year-old refugee last September while the two were housed at Camp Upshur, a refugee camp for Afghan evacuees located within the Virginia military base, prosecutors from the Eastern District of Virginia said Monday. 

Tariq, who was not related to the child, was seen by a pair of Marines kissing the child around her face and neck and then touching her chest, genitals and buttocks over her clothing, court records show. 

When the child tried to pull away, Tariq grabbed her and continued molesting her and then later told police that he didn’t do anything wrong because the actions were “part of his culture,” records show. 

The child, identified only as S.L. in court records, had recently escaped from Afghanistan with her family after the fall of the Afghan government last summer

Tariq had a one-day trial Thursday at US District Court in Alexandria and a jury found him guilty the following afternoon. 

“People who come to our country seeking haven from tyranny and terrorism deserve to live here in safety,” said US Attorney Jessica Aber, who oversaw the case. 

Refugees walk through the departure terminal to a bus at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Refugees walk through the departure terminal to a bus at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

“I want to thank the Marines and the FBI for their commitment to upholding that ideal. It is the resilience and courage of the victim and her family in speaking out against this offender that is truly emblematic of the contributions refugees and immigrants make to our country.”

Tariq’s attorney wrote in court records that her client had worked alongside US troops before the fall of the Afghan government and when the Taliban took over last August, he fled through Qatar and Germany before landing at Camp Upshur. 

It wasn’t immediately clear what vetting, if any, Tariq underwent before he was permitted to enter the US. Nearly all of the Afghans evacuated from Kabul last year were not properly screened before they arrived in the US, Senate Republicans claimed in an October memo.

The memo claimed the Biden administration had not vetted the information provided by tens of thousands of Afghans and instead chose to rely solely on criminal and terrorist databases to weed out potential threats.

Evacuees board a C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan
Evacuees board a C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan.
U.S NAVY/Central Command Public Affairs/Cpl. Nicholas Guevara/Handout via REUTERS

It also wasn’t immediately clear what type of work Tariq did alongside US troops. He’s originally from a remote Afghan province and cannot read or write in any language, nor can he understand English, Tariq’s public defender wrote in court documents. 

She argued that Tariq didn’t have any understanding of the American criminal justice system and asked the court to suppress statements he made about abuse being part of his culture, a motion that was denied. 

Tariq faces up to life in prison and will be sentenced on April 26. The DOJ noted actual sentences for federal crimes are “typically less” than the maximum penalties and will be determined by a judge.

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