FGM Prosecutions of Three Under Way in Michigan

In the past couple of months, three Michigan residents including two physicians have been charged with violating the US law against female genital cutting. Contrary to what the article says, this is not the first time such a prosecution has been launched. We are not aware of any known convictions under the 1996 US law.

 

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www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/midwest/ct-detroit-female-genital-mutilation-case-20170421-story.html 

 

Another doctor, wife charged with female genital mutilation in Michigan

By Tresa Baldas and Robert Allen

April 21, 2017

Detroit Free Press

 

For the second time in a week, authorities have charged a Detroit-area doctor with breaking a federal genital mutilation law, this time arresting a suburban physician and his wife for allegedly helping another doctor perform genital cutting on 7-year-old girls in a Livonia, Mich., clinic.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed Friday, while a doctor removed parts of the girls' genitals, the wife of the clinic owner held the girls' hands "in order to comfort them."

 

Two months later, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, both of Livonia, were arrested Friday morning at the Burhani Medical Clinic, where the alleged cuttings took place.

 

They're charged with conspiring to perform genital mutilation on minor girls by letting a doctor use their clinic to perform the procedure. Prosecutors say two Minnesota girls had their genitals mutilated in February by Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, who was charged last week in what is the nation's first federal prosecution of genital cutting. She was arrested April 12 and ordered jailed pending the outcome of her case involving the two Minnesota girls, though the FBI believes she has several more victims.

 

All three defendants are part of a small, Indian-Muslim community known as the Dawoodi Bohra, which was at the center of an Australian genital cutting prosecution that sent three people to prison in 2015.

The Attars were arraigned Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court and will remain locked pending a detention hearing at 1 p.m. Wednesday, when a judge will decide whether to grant them bond or keep them behind bars. Both appeared in federal court in handcuffs and chains,

 

"It's frightening for them," Mary Chartier, Fakhruddin Attar's lawyer said afterward, adding that the couple was surprised by the arrest Friday. "Dr. Attar is not aware of or believe any crimes were committed at his clinic."

 

She said the couple retained her and Matt Newburg, Farida Attar's lawyer, after being previously questioned by the FBI.He wore an orange and white striped shirt, khaki pants and a taqiyah-style, white and gold hat. His wife wore a turquoise chador covering her head and shoulders, with a matching jilbab-style robe. Chartier said the timing of the arrest was "classic government game-playing," with the couple now required to spend the weekend in jail before a hearing on bond next week.

 

The Attars have "no criminal history whatsoever," she said, adding that they're "certainly no flight risk," having gone about their lives as normal after Nagarwala was arrested.

 

Nagarwala, an emergency room doctor with the Henry Ford Health System, has been placed on leave. She is not accused of performing any genital mutilation at the hospital, but rather at a clinic in Livonia owned by Attar.

 

According to the complaint, Attar, an internist, has admitted to authorities that Nagarwala has used his clinic after hours to treat children ages 6-9 for problems with their genitals, including genital rashes, but that she only saw the patients "when the clinic is closed on Friday evenings or Saturdays." She never billed for the procedures nor documented them, the complaint said, noting multiple other young girls have told authorities that Nagarwala also performed gender mutilation on them.

 

Nagarwala has claimed through her lawyer that she did not engage in any actual cutting, but rather that she removed a membrane from the genital area using a "scraper" and gave it to the parents to bury in the ground as part of a religious custom within the Dawoodi Bohra community. The parents have not been charged. One of the girls in Minnesota was temporarily removed from the home but is now back with her parents.

 

Chartier declined to speak in detail on the couple's religious beliefs but said to expect more will be revealed in court Wednesday.

 

"They do have a very strong religious belief," she said.

 

On Friday, an organization that oversees the Dawoodi Bohra community in Detroit issued this statement.

 

“The Dawoodi Bohras do not support the violation of any U.S. law, local, state or federal. We offer our assistance to the investigating authorities," the group, known as Anjuman-e-Najmi Detgroit, said in the statement. "Any violation of U.S. law is counter to instructions to our community members. It does not reflect the everyday lives of the Dawoodi Bohras in America."

 

The organizations, which operates out of a mosque in Farmington Hills, stressed that it has issued a written statement instructing its members not to practice genital mutilation because it is illegal in the U.S.

 

"It is an important rule of the Dawoodi Bohras that we respect the laws of the land, wherever we live. This is precisely what we have done for several generations in America," the group stated. " It is unfortunate if anyone has not abided by the laws of the country ... We take our religion seriously but our culture is modern and forward-looking. We are proud that women from our community have high levels of educational attainment and enjoy successful, professional careers.”

 

The complaint unsealed Friday offers a more-detailed look at the investigation, which relied on cell phone records, surveillance video and medical evidence to bring charges against three individuals who were all placed at the alleged scene of the crime. The case involves two Minnesota girls whose mothers brought them to Michigan in February for what the girls thought was a special girls weekend. Instead, prosecutors allege, they ended up at the Livonia clinic on Feb. 3, where they were underwent genital mutilation procedures.

 

A follow-up exam by a Minnesota doctor revealed that the girls' genitals had been altered. According to surveillance video outside the clinic, Nagarwala, Attar and Attar's wife were all there.

 

In addition to the surveillance video, authorities said they also have obtained phone records that show Attar was in regular communication with members of the same Indian Muslim community in Minnesota, making 50 phone calls in three-month period starting last fall.

 

Authorities said they also intercepted phone calls in which Attar's wife is heard telling one Michigan member of the religious community not to cooperate if investigators inquire about the procedures. She allegedly told that parent to "completely deny" allegations of genital mutilation and "to say that nothing happened."

hey also have obtained phone records that show Attar was in regular communication with members of the same Indian Muslim community in Minnesota, making 50 phone calls in three-month period starting last fall.

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Authorities said they also intercepted phone calls in which Attar's wife is heard telling one Michigan member of the religious community not to cooperate if investigators inquire about the procedures. She allegedly told that parent to "completely deny" allegations of genital mutilation and "to say that nothing happened."

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