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Trial Starts for Man Accused of Accosting, Attacking Muslim Woman

Authorities say Sean Devlin accosted the victim with slurs before he hit a train window near her head, breaking it in the process, and shouted that the victim had a bomb in her bag.

A bench trial for a Massachusetts man facing civil rights and assault charges is now underway at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston.

Prosecutors said Sean Devlin, 36, of North Reading, yelled anti-Muslim slurs at a woman wearing a headscarf and falsely claimed she had a bomb during a tirade on an Orange Line train back in June of 2017.

In court, 63-year-old Malika Touirtou, the alleged victim, recounted the attack on the stand. The East Boston resident said it started when the suspect overheard her speaking Arabic on the phone to her brother.

“He said, ‘Why are you wearing a hijab on your head? Go back to your country. Why are you here? Go back to your country,’” Touirtou said through a translator.

Touirtou, who lived in Malden at the time of the incident, was heading home from her mosque in Roxbury after a long day of prayer.

She said Devlin also kicked her and hit her in the back with an umbrella. He then allegedly punched a window on the train until it shattered.

Several witnesses took the stand for the prosecution, including MBTA Transit Police officers and an MBTA passenger who heard the suspect yelling Touirtou had a bomb on the train.

"He began exclaiming that one of the women had a bomb in her bag that she was Muslim and had a bomb in her bag," recalled witness Daniel Sullivan.

Arguing the assault charge, the defense was quick to point out that Touirtou declined medical attention and did not notice a bruise until a week later.

Devlin did not take the stand in his own defense. According to the police report, when officers asked him if he had been drinking the night of the incident, he told them, “obviously not enough.”

Closing arguments are scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday at Suffolk Superior Court.

Devlin has several prior felony convictions and state prison sentences for armed robbery and breaking and entering. If the judge finds him guilty of assault and battery in this case, he could face the maximum penalty of 10 years.

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