CHANDIGARH, India – An Indian athlete who overcame a visa denial with the help of U.S. lawmakers and a local mayor to attend the World Snowshoe Championship in New York has been arrested on charges of the abuse of a minor.
The details of the alleged incident are sketchy, but the parents of the girl involved said it happened on Monday and reported the matter to local authorities, according to a report from the local newspaper, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
The athlete’s coach said he is innocent.
Muddasir Mir, the president of the SnowShoe Federation of India, confirmed the arrest of Tanveer Hussain and said that the next court hearing is set for Monday.
“I absolutely say it’s an unfortunate situation both for the community there in the U.S. who supported us, and the federation,” Mir said. “We have full faith in the American law and as there is a court proceeding going on that is going to be my only comment.”
It was a long journey for Indian snowshoe champion Hussain and his coach to the World Snowshoe Championships in Saranac Lake, New York last weekend.
The pair were initially denied visas to travel to the U.S. in the chaotic days following the Trump administration’s travel ban, but with the help of Saranac’s mayor and – according to Mir – the office of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the American Embassy in New Delhi reversed their decision Feb. 17 and allowed them to travel to the competition. They arrived February 23.
After their ordeal, Hussain and coach Abid Khan were given a hero’s welcome in the bucolic town in the Adirondacks, besieged by locals offering congratulations and free lodgings at the Porcupine Inn, a heritage lodge that in the snow looked like a “fairy tale scene from a movie,” Khan said in a Facebook post.
The “fairy tale” came to an unhappy conclusion Thursday, when Hussain, 24, was arrested and charged with felony sexual abuse and child welfare endangerment.
Hussain hails from the Indian side of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is predominantly Muslim. He is considered one of India’s best snowshoe competitors and placed in the top 50 at the World Snowshoe Championships last year in Italy, Mir said. He failed to place in the top 100 this time.
Although India is not one of the seven countries that was part of the initial travel ban, Hussain and Khan had alleged they were victims of it when their first attempt at procuring visas to travel to the United States were turned down in late January, the first business day after Trump’s travel ban was put in place.
Khan told the BBC that an employee at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi told them they were being rejected because of “current policy.”
U.S. officials said at the time that the denial was not connected to the travel ban. An embassy spokesman said they were preparing a statement for release later in the day.
The pair left Kashmir on February 15 to be re-interviewed by embassy officials in New Delhi in an effort to overturn their earlier denial, Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, a key supporter of the men, explained in a Facebook post. They provided marriage certificates, property deeds, testimonies from employers and evidence of “past world travel without mishaps,” Rabideau said.
Mir had said that the visa would not have been issued without the “personal efforts” of Schumer and New York’s other Democratic senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. On Saturday, Schumer celebrated Hussain’s “rock star” welcome in a Facebook post, saying that the United States is “Still a country that welcome athletes from across the globe to compete in our stadiums, our snow-covered fields and everywhere in between.”
During their time in Saranac Lake, Hussein and his coach were honored with a special reception by the mayor and also gave a talk about Kashmir at Saranac Lake Middle School, where students had waged a letter writing campaign on their behalf. “Pack your bags. Next year you are coming to Kashmir,” Hussain told them, according to one of Khan’s Facebook posts.
The Washington Post