Moth­ers charged in mu­ti­la­tion case

Min­nesota women al­legedly brought daugh­ters to Mich.

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY ROBERT SNELL The Detroit News

Detroit — Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors un­veiled charges Thurs­day against the moth­ers of two 7-yearold girls from Min­nesota whose gen­i­talia were cut dur­ing a re­li­gious pro­ce­dure ear­lier this year.

Haseena Hal­fal, 34, of Ply­mouth, Min­nesota, and Zainab Hariyanawala, 31, were in­dicted five months af­ter fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors un­veiled the first fe­male gen­i­tal his­tory.

The moth­ers were charged with fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion and con­spir­acy to com­mit fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to the indictment, which was un­sealed Thurs­day.

Hal­fal is a U.S. cit­i­zen and has cus­tody of her daugh­ter and a son, de­fense lawyer Dan Hom­stad told The News. He said he plans a vig­or­ous de­fense.

“This is a very com­plex case and there are a lot of cul­tural is­sues at play that the (Da­woodi Bohra) com­mu­nity up here is strug­gling with,” Hom­stad said. “I rep­re­sent two very car­ing and

mu­ti­la­tion

case

in

U.S. in­tel­li­gent par­ents of two won­der­ful chil­dren. This ar­rest, of course, is very hard on the fam­ily.”

Hal­fal was ar­rested at her home Thurs­day by the FBI and ar­raigned in fed­eral court in St. Paul, her lawyer said. She was re­leased on bond and is ex­pected to make an ini­tial ap­pear­ance Thurs­day in Detroit fed­eral court.

The sta­tus of Hariyanawala, whose home­town was not im­me­di­ately avail­able Thurs­day, was un­clear and her lawyer did not re­spond to mes­sages seek­ing com­ment.

Be­fore

Thurs­day,

six

peo­ple had been charged in a con­spir­acy to cut pre­pubescent girls as part of a re­li­gious pro­ce­dure prac­ticed by some mem­bers of the Da­woodi Bohra, a small sect of Shia Mus­lims from In­dia.

Lo­cally, most mem­bers of the sect be­long to the An­ju­man-eNa­jmi mosque in Farm­ing­ton Hills.

The lead de­fen­dant is Dr. Ju­mana Na­gar­wala of Northville, who is ac­cused of mu­ti­lat­ing the gen­i­talia of the two Min­nesota girls at a Livo­nia clinic in Fe­bru­ary.

Pros­e­cu­tors es­ti­mate up to 100 girls were cut dur­ing the 12-year con­spir­acy. So far, the indictment ref­er­ences six vic­tims.

The indictment is the lat­est de­vel­op­ment in a high-pro­file crim­i­nal case that has raised aware­ness about the pro­ce­dure – and sharp di­vi­sions over it.

Pros­e­cu­tors say the girls were cut but de­fense lawyers say the pro­ce­dure per­formed on the girls was be­nign and not fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion. They ac­cuse the gov­ern­ment of over­reach­ing.

Na­gar­wala is ac­cused of mu­ti­lat­ing the Min­nesota girls Feb. 3 at the Burhani Med­i­cal Clinic in Livo­nia, owned by Dr. Fakhrud­din At­tar.

The Farm­ing­ton Hills man has been in­dicted along with his wife, Dr. Farida At­tar, who is ac­cused of help­ing ar­range the pro­ce­dure and be­ing in the ex­am­i­na­tion room while it was per­formed.

The cou­ple was ar­rested ear­lier this year and ac­cused of ac­cused of com­mit­ting fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion, try­ing to cover up the crime and con­spir­ing with Na­gar­wala to cut girls.

The indictment al­leges Na­gar­wala and the Min­nesota moth­ers plot­ted a night-time ren­dezvous at the Livo­nia clinic.

Na­gar­wala sent text mes­sages to the moms di­rect­ing them to meet her at the clinic Feb. 3, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege.

The moth­ers drove with their daugh­ters from Min­nesota to Metro Detroit so Na­gar­wala could per­form fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion that day at the Livo­nia fa­cil­ity, ac­cord­ing to the indictment.

One girl told the FBI that Na­gar­wala “pinched” her on the “place (where) she goes pee,’ ” and a sub­se­quent med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions showed the girl’s genitals did not ap­pear nor­mal and a sec­tion had been al­tered or re­moved, ac­cord­ing to a court fil­ing. A doc­tor also ob­served scar tis­sue and small heal­ing lac­er­a­tions.

The sec­ond girl iden­ti­fied Na­gar­wala as the doc­tor she vis­ited in Detroit and a sub­se­quent med­i­cal exam showed the girl’s geni- talia had a small in­ci­sion and a small tear, ac­cord­ing to a court fil­ing.

Na­gar­wala’s lawyer has said the doc­tor merely re­moved mu­cous mem­brane from the girls’ gen­i­talia, placed the ma­te­rial on gauze pads and gave it to their fam­i­lies for burial.

The girls were brought to the clinic by moth­ers who wanted them to un­dergo a re­li­gious rite of pas­sage, de­fense lawyers said.

The pro­ce­dures were be­nign and le­gal, de­fense lawyers have said. Pros­e­cu­tors dis­agree. “Their pants and un­der­wear were re­moved ... and Dr. Na­gar­wala ap­proached with a sharp tool to cut their genitals,” as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney Sara Wood­ward said at an ear­lier hear­ing.

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