Sex charge should stick in mutilation case, feds say
Detroit – Dr. Jumana Nagarwala digitally penetrated and cut the genitalia of 7-year-old girls and should face a sex charge in the nation’s first female genital mutilation trial, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Prosecutors made the argument four weeks after the Northville doctor and Dr. Fakhruddin Attar of Farmington Hills asked a federal judge to dismiss the most serious count against them, a sex charge punishable by up to life in federal prison.
The doctors want U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman to dismiss a conspiracy charge alleging they transported minors to Metro Detroit with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Let jurors decide, the government countered.
The pair’s alleged conduct does not qualify as sexual activity because the doctors did not intentionally touch the girls’ genitalia for gratification or to abuse, humiliate or degrade anyone, defense lawyers argued. The criminal charge also is unconstitutionally vague, they added.
Prosecutors fought the request in a filing late Wednesday, insisting Nagarwala sexually abused two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota whose mothers brought them to Attar’s office in February in Livonia for an after-hours, illegal procedure, prosecutors said.
The Minnesota moms, Haseena Halfal, 34, and Zainab Hariyanawala, 31, were arraigned last month in federal court in Detroit on female genital mutilation charges and released on bond. A trial is set for June 2018.
“Among other things, Nagarwala digitally manipulated and penetrated the genitals of young girls with her hands and a cutting instrument to remove portions of their clitorises, clitoral hoods, and/or labia minora,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward wrote.
“Nagarwala performed the procedure in secret, knowing that it was illegal and medically unnecessary,” the prosecutor added. “The evidence will show that she performed (female genital mutilation) on her victims to limit their sexuality as adults.”
It is irrelevant whether Nagarwala, of Northville, was sexually gratified by performing the procedure, the prosecutor wrote.
“Many cases in the state of Michigan and elsewhere involve abusive sexual contact by pediatricians, sports doctors, trainers and the like,” Woodward wrote. “If the government is required to prove gratification, prosecution of these cases would become significantly more difficult.”
Eight people have been charged in a case alleging a 12-year conspiracy involved cutting prepubescent girls as part of a religious procedure practiced by some members of a small Muslim sect from India, the Dawoodi Bohra.
Locally, most members of the sect belong to the Anjuman-e-Najmi mosque in Farmington Hills.
The procedure happened even though the FBI had installed a hidden camera outside the clinic before the girls arrived. There is no indication in court records that investigators were watching the surveillance footage in real time, were aware of its significance initially or knew about the alleged surgeries beforehand.
Prosecutors estimate up to 100 girls were cut during the 12-year conspiracy. So far, the indictment references six victims.
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.