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BRATTLEBORO — A 43-year-old Afghan refugee living in Brattleboro was ordered held for lack of $10,000 bail Thursday despite pleas from the refugee support community that he be released from jail.

Dawood Nazim Shah, who has been living in Brattleboro since January, is charged with attempted sexual assault and lewd and lascivious conduct. He was arrested about two weeks ago, according to testimony in court on Thursday, and his attorney was seeking his release on conditions.

Both alleged incidents took place on July 23 at his apartment in downtown Brattleboro, after Nazim Shah invited the 29-year-old woman to his apartment for a soda or fruit juice and to get cool since he had air conditioning and it was hot out.

The woman, who was standing behind the Boys and Girls Club on Elliot Street, told police she had never seen Nazim Shah before when he asked her if she wanted a soda or fruit juice.

On Thursday, several people who are working to help about 100 Afghan refugees in Brattleboro, testified that Nazim Shah is a kind and gentle person and that he had not gotten into any of the disagreements that had developed between other refugees when they first came to Brattleboro and were staying at the School for International Training. They said they believed the incident was a misunderstanding because of cultural and language differences.

“He is the most respectful person,” said Nbras Elrebate, a case manager for the Ethiopian Community Development Council in Brattleboro, which is working with the refugees. “He is the most peaceful person, the most quiet.”

Later, she told Windham County Deputy State’s Attorney David Gartenstein that “it’s a big misunderstanding.”

Shah himself told police it was a “misunderstanding” between himself and the woman, but declined further comment to the police that night.

Despite the testimonials from the refugee organizations and his current Brattleboro employer, Windham Superior Court Judge Michael Kainen ordered Shah to be held on $10,000 cash or surety bail.

Stevens had urged the judge to release Shah on conditions so that he could contact his wife and children via the internet. Stevens said that Shah had made friends in the Brattleboro community and in the Afghan community here, and that his brother lived in Burlington.

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The court hearing involved a pair of Pashto interpreters, who took turns explaining everything that was said. Shah has a very limited knowledge of English, and is taking English language lessons at Vermont Adult Learning, two times a week.

He was described by Robin Lucius of Against the Grain, a local gluten-free bakery, where several Afghan refugees are working, as a good employee, but with very little English language skills. Against the Grain has a fulltime interpreter, she said. She said that Shah very carefully followed safety regulations at the commercial bakery, and she said he would still have a job if released on bail. He has worked there since March, she said.

Raymond Clark, who works part-time teaching English to Shah at Vermont Adult Learning, said he knew “very little” English at this point, but that he was “genuine” and applied himself to learn the language.

According to police affidavits filed in court, the woman said that Shah had grabbed her breasts and forced her onto his bed and got on top of her. She pushed him off, and then he prevented her from leaving his apartment. As she tried repeatedly to leave, he exposed himself and masturbated, she told police, and again grabbed her and pulled down her pants.

She said she escaped his Elliot Street apartment finally, and she told police she was very frightened, rating her fear as a 10, on a scale of one to 10.

She described Nazim Shah to police, including a detailed description of his distinctive sandals, and police arrested him that night.

When police, also working with a Pashto interpreter, asked Shah whether he knew why he had been arrested, he said his garbage can had been stolen. He said he had asked a woman who was standing outside his apartment and smoking, and who he suspected was drunk, to leave.

The charge of “sexual assault without consent, attempted” carries a potential life sentence. The lewd and lascivious charge carries a potential five-year sentence.

This article has been updated.

Contact Susan Smallheer at