Detroit – A Farmington Hills-based mosque paid a physician to perform female genital mutilation, a lawyer for the doctor’s children alleged in court Tuesday.
Cynthia Nunez, an attorney for the Michigan Children’s Law Center who represents two children of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, said the physician was paid to cut girls as part of a procedure practiced by their religious and cultural community, the Dawoodi Bohra.
Nunez made the comments during a hearing at Wayne County Juvenile Court for Nagarwala and her husband on a petition by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to terminate their parental custody and remove the children from the couple’s home.
Nagarwala, 44, has been charged in federal court with mutilating the genitals of two 7-year-old Minnesota girls at a Livonia clinic Feb. 3.
Her attorney disputed Nunez’s claims.
“That’s absolutely not true,” Shannon Smith said after the hearing before Judge Frank Szymanski.
Smith said “the government has grossly misstated and overstated things, so many facts in this case, and that’s one.” Nagarawala was not paid to perform mutilation, said Smith. The attorney said the physician was paid for items she bought for the mosque’s food bank.
“We have all of the proof of it being for bread, for pizza ... for two-liter pop. Stuff like that,” said Smith. “It’s so insane to me that they keep saying this. It’s not true.”
Last week, a federal prosecutor testified that as many as 100 girls may have had their genitalia mutilated during a 12-year conspiracy involving three local doctors.
Nagarwala was not at the hearing due to a mix up at the Wayne County Jail, where she was being held while awaiting Tuesday’s proceedings.
Her husband, who is not in federal custody, cried during the hearing as attorneys fought over visitation issues regarding the couple’s two young children. The husband was removed from the home last week but will be allowed to have supervised visits with his children and accompany them outside the home as well.
The child custody hearing for the Nagarwalas continues at 11 a.m. June 20.
Also on Tuesday, three children were scheduled to be removed from another home as part of a state investigation into whether one of the children, a 14-year-old girl in Wayne County, was the victim of female genital mutilation.
The attorney for the children, Deanna Kelly, said she could not give details on the case but said there were no connection between her case and the charges against Nagarwala.
An attorney for three other Wayne County children, who remain with their parents, asked for a preliminary examination in Wayne County Juvenile Court as part of an investigation into whether their parents are linked the female genital mutilation conspiracy.
The couple, who have not been charged, are due back in court Wednesday. The judge ordered that they not be identified by the media to protect the identity of their children.
Last month, an Oakland County Juvenile Court referee approved a petition that could terminate the parental rights of a Farmington Hills couple, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 52, and his 50-year-old wife, Farida. The couple are co-defendants in the case against Nagarwala and are jailed while awaiting further proceedings.
Attorneys in that parental custody case were back in Oakland Probate Court for a pretrial hearing Tuesday before Judge Victoria Valentine.
Attorneys for the Attars said they were still seeking the couple’s release on bond in the federal criminal case.
The attorneys told Valentine they plan to file several pretrial motions next week in Oakland Circuit Court, including motions regarding contact with their daughter, who has been placed in temporary custody of other relatives but remains in her parents’ home. Court officials have ordered the media not to report the girl’s name.
Attorneys in that parental custody case agreed Tuesday on tentative trial dates of Sept. 25-27 and to continue Dec. 18-22 as necessary.
Two other couples, who have not charged been in the case, also are subjects of a complaint by state welfare officials to end their parental rights. In a hearing May 9, an Oakland County Juvenile Court referee allowed the couples of both children to remain with them while the mutilation investigation continues.
Mike Martindale contributed.