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High Court Reverses Sex Assault Conviction of Afghan Man

June 20, 1996

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ An Afghan immigrant who kissed his 18-month-old son’s penis as part of a cultural tradition did not commit sex abuse, Maine’s highest court ruled Thursday.

The court threw out the 1994 gross sexual assault conviction against Mohammad Kargar, citing the lack of harm, Kargar’s cultural background and his innocent state of mind.

``Although it may be difficult for us as a society to separate Kargar’s conduct from our notions of sexual abuse, that difficulty should not result in a felony conviction in this case,″ the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said in its unanimous decision.

``I feel much better now. I’m happy. My family is happy,″ said Kargar, who had been barred from unsupervised visits with his family, then given an 18-month suspended sentence and probation.

Charges were brought against Kargar after a neighbor told police her two children saw him kissing his child’s penis. Police later found a snapshot in the man’s family photo album showing his mouth on the boy’s genitals.

His wife said she took the picture and planned to send it to her husband’s mother in Afghanistan.

Recent immigrants from Afghanistan testified that kissing a son’s penis is common in that country, and done to show love for the child.

Kargar testified that the practice is common until the child is 3- to 5-years-old. No sexual feelings are involved, witnesses said.

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