Awami League leader arrested, sent to jail over rape in US

BanglaPress Desk
October 20, 2022

Staff Reporter: A Massachusetts court in the US has arrested an Awami League leader in the US and sent him to jail on charges of raping an American black woman and strangulating her.

The accused is Asif Ahmed Chowdhury aka Asif Babu (62), a resident of Medford near Boston and the vice-president of New England (Boston) Awami League. He is also former president of Bangladesh Association of New England (BANE) based in Boston, New England. He hails from Kattali village under Pahartali Police Station of Chattogram district.

Judge Thomas Drechsler of the Superior Court of Salem City, Massachusetts on Friday, October 14, revoked Babu’s bail on serious charges including rape and strangulation and arrested him pending sentencing before sending him to jail.

Following the week-long judicial process, he was ordered to be remanded in custody. According to court sources, Asif Babu will be given the final sentence in the case on November 8.

The incident of rape allegedly took place in September 2020.

The victim, who has been living in the emergency shelter on Federal Street in Salem with her then 9-year-old daughter after she lost her job due to the pandemic and was unable to pay her rent, testified under questioning by prosecutor Kate MacDougall.

While staying there, she searched for a place to live in Medford so her daughter could return to the school she was attending before the eviction, the woman testified, adding that she responded to an ad on Facebook Marketplace for a single room, placed by Chowdhury, and planned to take the room.

Several days later, on September 17, 2020, Asif Babu visited the woman in Salem so she could sign a rental agreement. During that meeting is when the assault took place, the woman testified.

The woman’s daughter told jurors that she was awoken by the sounds of “a lot of chaos” and peeked out of the bedroom to see a man standing over her mother. “She couldn’t get up at all,” the girl told jurors. She backed into the bedroom and called 911 emergency hotline.

Salem Police Officer Jonathan Springer was the first to arrive at the shelter and found Asif Babu struggling with the woman near the door. He separated the two.

Officer Keegan Stokes then arrived and spoke with the woman, who he said was crying hysterically. Stokes told jurors that he noticed that the kitchen of the shelter apartment was in disarray and found Asif Babu’s glasses on the floor.

Defense lawyers Syrie Fried and Benjamin Brooks sought to highlight inconsistencies in the woman’s account to police, her testimony to a grand jury and her testimony at the trial, and pressed her with questions about Facebook Messenger exchanges in which Babu used heart emojis and paid her compliments.

They also suggested the woman started the fight during a dispute over the amount of rent she would pay. “You became angry and hit him,” Fried suggested in a question. “No,” the woman responded.

Fried showed the woman a photo of Asif Babu with scratches on his neck, and the ripped shirt he wore that night.

“I was trying to get him off of me,” the victim responded.

Earlier, on November 9, 2019, during the biennial election of the Bangladesh Association of New England (BANE) in Boston, Asif Babu, a candidate for the president from one panel, and his associates beat up a candidate from a rival panel, leaving him seriously injured. When the help of the police was sought to control the situation, the police reached the spot and stopped the polling. Based on the said incident, Khoka-Nabi-Sami Parishad sports secretary candidate SM Sajjad Hossain filed a case against Asif Babu with the local police. A few weeks later, the case was settled with the intervention of some alleged community leaders in Boston.

Despite allegations of widespread irregularities in that election, Asif Babu was elected president of the Bangladesh Association of New England (BANE) for a two-year term. This year, he appointed his wife Parvin Chowdhury as the president of BANE.