United Nations

Sudanese Diplomat Accused of Rubbing Against Woman in Subway Walks Free

Charges were dropped due to diplomatic immunity

A Sudanese diplomat accused of rubbing against a woman on a Manhattan subway this week had his arrest voided because he has diplomatic immunity, according to police and multiple published reports. 

Mohammad Abdalla Ali, 49, was riding a No. 4 train around 2 p.m. Monday out of Grand Central when he allegedly rubbed up against the 38-year-old woman. 

Police say he was charged with forcible touching, but once he presented papers affirming his diplomatic status, he was released. 

Debjani Roy, the deputy director of Hollaback, an organization focused on decreasing harassment, said she was disturbed to hear Ali would not be charged further for the alleged crime.

"What's disturbing about it is that there are zero consequences for this behavior," she said.

"The fact that the survivor knows this person is out there and there are no consequences is potentially devastating."

But the diplomat was legally protected from charges by the Vienna Convention, an international treaty, New York attorney Daniel Arshack said.

"One of the elements of the convention is that diplomats of a certain level will not be charged with crimes while they are clocked with their diplomatic status in a foreign country," he said.

He said the treaty gave United States diplomats the same immunity overseas.

However there could be other consequences for the diplomat. For example the United States government could demand a person with diplomatic immunity be excluded from the country, Arshack said.

"There is professional fallout for him, it's just that were not going to actually prosecute him criminally."

The NYPD said it notified the U.S. State Department of the matter and referred questions to the Manhattan district attorney's office. The State Department said it was aware of the incident.

"We are in touch with the NYPD and the Mayor’s office so that we are able to take appropriate steps, as needed, to address this matter," a spokesperson told NBC 4 New York.

The district attorney's office said there were no public documents available for release because Ali wasn't formally charged. 

The Sudanese Mission to the United Nations didn't immediately respond to calls or email requests for comment.

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