U.S. embassy worker in Burkina Faso charged with little one intercourse abuse | EUROtoday

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The husband of a U.S. diplomat in Burkina Faso was indicted by a federal grand jury on expenses of sexually abusing kids for a yr on the couple’s U.S. Embassy-assigned residence in Ouagadougou.

Fode Sitafa Mara, 39, who additionally labored on the embassy there, has been charged with 5 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor, one depend of coercion and enticement, and one depend of obstruction of justice.

In court docket paperwork filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, federal prosecutors with the U.S. lawyer’s workplace in Maryland allege that Mara met the kids, two Burkinabe ladies ages 13 and 15, within the Ouagadougou neighborhood the place the couple had been positioned throughout the spouse’s two-year project for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The ladies had been mates with the American household who beforehand lived within the Maras’ embassy-assigned house, and so they equally befriended Mara and his spouse quickly after their arrival in August 2022, court docket paperwork say.

The ladies would later inform investigators that Mara started incessantly abusing them as early because the second time they met him, in response to court docket filings within the case, sending the women sexually specific messages on telephones he purchased them and giving them cash or presents.

Mara appeared Friday earlier than a choose in U.S. District Court in Maryland who dominated that he will probably be held with out bond as he awaits trial. The U.S. lawyer’s workplace in Maryland requested for Mara’s pretrial detention as a result of, prosecutors wrote, he’s a “serious risk of flight and danger to the community” and there’s a “high likelihood he will attempt to obstruct justice.”

“The defendant’s crimes are as serious as any that can be alleged,” prosecutors wrote of their movement arguing for his detainment. “They stand out even in the context of child exploitation offenses. Mr. Mara repeatedly forcibly raped two children over the course of more than a year.”

An lawyer for Mara didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark, nor did USAID. In an announcement, a State Department official declined to touch upon the case due to the continuing investigation however confirmed that Mara labored as a assist staffer on the embassy in Burkina Faso on the time of his arrest.

Mara is a U.S. citizen who beforehand lived in Takoma Park, Md., in response to the indictment. Federal prosecutors within the United States have jurisdiction over the case due to the placement of the alleged abuse. If convicted, Mara faces a compulsory minimal sentence of 30 years in jail however may go to jail for all times, prosecutors stated.

The alleged abuse came about from November 2022 by November 2023, prosecutors stated.

American authorities have been warned that Mara is likely to be abusing the women in October 2023, in response to court docket paperwork, when a guard assigned to the couple’s embassy residence instructed investigators with the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office that he and the housekeeper had seen Mara carry the women to the house when Mara’s spouse was away. The ladies would keep inside with Mara, the guard stated, and typically go away wanting upset, and as if they’d modified garments or taken a bathe.

In a separate interview, in response to court docket paperwork, the housekeeper instructed authorities she had seen Mara touching one of many ladies and had seen him alone with them in bedrooms. On Oct. 25, 2023, the day earlier than Mara and his spouse left for a protracted trip to Vietnam, safety guard logs for the Maras’ embassy residence confirmed that Mara and one of many ladies had been inside the home, alone, prosecutors allege in court docket paperwork. The housekeeper stated her quarters had been disturbed and a condom was in the bathroom. The lady later instructed authorities that Mara had assaulted her after saying, “I want you before I travel,” in response to court docket filings.

When Mara returned from his Vietnam trip, investigators approached him on the U.S. Embassy, the place he agreed to be interviewed and consented to authorities looking out his private and work cellphones, in response to court docket filings from prosecutors. Investigators discovered sexually specific WhatsApp messages with one of many ladies, in response to court docket paperwork, and finally uncovered an web search historical past on Mara’s units associated to sexually specific materials involving different ladies of their early teenagers.

Prosecutors allege that “immediately after” his interview with investigators, Mara requested the housekeeper to inform authorities she was having an affair with him; she stated she wouldn’t “lie” for him and reported the dialog to embassy safety. That similar day, in response to court docket filings, Mara additionally introduced one of many ladies to his home whereas his spouse was away. He would later take away the cellphones he purchased for the women, prosecutors stated; these units haven’t been discovered.

U.S. Attorney Erek Barron stated in an announcement that the case was investigated as a part of Project Safe Childhood, a Justice Department initiative launched in 2006 meant to fight little one intercourse abuse and exploitation by partnerships amongst native, state and federal legislation enforcement. Agencies concerned within the case included the Diplomatic Security Service’s workplace of particular investigations; USAID’s workplace of inspector common; and Homeland Security Investigations.