Indian Forest Officer released on bail

Senior Indian Forest Service officer Surendra Prasad MohapatraSenior Indian Forest Service officer Surendra Prasad Mohapatra, arrested by Pennsylvania police and charged with indecent assault after a woman hotel worker complained against him, has been released on bail.

Mohapatra will appear in court for a preliminary hearing on August 1 in a Pennsylvania court. Sources told PTI that Mohapatra was released on bail on Friday and came to the city where he visited officials at the Indian Consulate on Monday.

Officials at the Consulate have been in constant touch with Mohapatra ever since he was arrested by the police in Pennsylvania’s Matamoras town on July 24 after a woman staff worker at the hotel where he was staying accused him of “sexual assault.” Sources said Mohapatra denies any wrongdoing.

India’s ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao, who was in the city to attend an event, said the matter is being investigated and did not make any further comment on the case.

The Consulate officials have been working on getting legal assistance to Mohapatra as well as sorting out the bail modalities. They are also making arrangements for his stay in the US while he fights his case in court.

Mohapatra is unlikely to get any diplomatic immunity as he does not have a diplomatic passport but an official one, the sources added.

Mohapatra was arraigned in a Pennsylvania court on July 25 and faces charges of indecent assault and false imprisonment. He had been arrested at the Pike County correctional facility in Pennsylvania.

A bail amount of $ 35,000 had been set for Mohapatra. He is scheduled to appear again in court before Magisterial District Justice Deborah Fischer for his preliminary hearing on August 1.

Mohapatra, who is said to be a 1985-batch IFS officer, was part of a group of 30 Indian officers visiting the US for a mid-career training programme at the Syracuse University in New York.

The incident is reported to have happened on late Tuesday night last week when Mohapatra had a problem with the internet connection in his hotel room and had asked the reception for help.

A woman came to his room but was unable to fix it and left. The police turned up about two hours later and arrested Mohapatra after the woman filed a complaint.

Mohapatra is the regional chief conservator of forests at Sambalpur in Odisha.

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