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Whereabouts of man charged with sexual assault remain unknown

Telegraph file photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Mohammod Rafique speaks briefly with one of his lawyers, Attorney Anthony Naro, during a January hearing in Superior Court. Rafique failed to appear at a March court hearing and has since disappeared.

NASHUA – When attorney Anthony Naro told a Superior Court judge in January that he was unable to locate his client, Mohammod Rafique, to inform him of upcoming court dates, Naro asked if the judge could hold off on issuing a warrant for 30 days.

The prosecutor didn’t oppose the request, which Judge Jacalyn Colburn then granted after both sides agreed they “will work to find Mr. Rafique.”

However, the attempts were unsuccessful, according to documents filed in court, so when Rafique allegedly didn’t show up for his next hearing in early March, Colburn issued the warrant for his arrest.

Now, five months after the search for Rafique began, his whereabouts remain unknown, a situation that Naro all but predicted when he wrote in a recent court filing that he believed “there’s a strong chance (Rafique) will not appear … for reasons discussed at a previous hearing.”

Rafique, 29, a resident of 50 Lake St. when he was arrested in September 2017, faces three felony charges accusing him of inappropriately touching and sexually assaulting three underage girls.

The felony charges include two counts of felonious sexual assault – victim under age 13, and one count of attempted felonious sexual assault – victim under age 13.

Two counts of misdemeanor simple assault are listed as “cross-reference” charges in Rafique’s case summary.

Five months after the search for Rafique began, his whereabouts remain unknown, a situation Naro all but predicted when he wrote in a recent court filing that he believed “there’s a strong chance (Rafique) will not appear … for reasons discussed at a previous hearing.”

Those reasons, while not spelled out in court filings, likely have to do with Rafique’s inability to communicate with court, corrections and other personnel, including his own lawyer, due to the lack of Rohingya interpreters in this region.

When he arrived in Nashua several years ago with other members of the Rohingya community as part of a United Nations resettlement initiative, Rafique was already suffering from “severe (post-traumatic stress disorder) and anxiety issues,” his attorneys said.

Sent to jail for 30 days, Rafique was unable to communicate with anyone, which exacerbated his symptoms and left him increasingly fearful of others, the attorneys said.

His previous attorney, Amanda Henderson, said Rafique and his family members were “tortured and beaten by smugglers” in his native Myanmar — as well as held captive for a year in Thailand, where they had sought safety.

Naro, meanwhile, argued at previous hearings that Rafique’s inability to communicate and understand the judicial process rendered him incompetent to stand trial.

The sides were in the process of addressing Rafique’s competency when he disappeared, according to his case summary.