Doctor at center of mutilation case freed from jail

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, the Northville doctor accused of mutilating the genitalia of “countless” young girls, was released on $4.5 million unsecured bond Tuesday after seven months in jail.

Nagarwala, 44, was freed after more than a dozen friends came to federal court and pledged to pay the largest unsecured bond in Detroit federal court history if she flees while awaiting a June trial — the first trial nationwide involving female genital mutilation.

She traded handcuffs and leg shackles for a GPS tether and will live at an undisclosed hotel with her father, who agreed to watch her 24 hours a day and ensure she complies with bond conditions. Nagarwala cannot have contact with witnesses or victims in the case, and is barred from living at home while the state tries to strip her parental rights to two minor children, though she can have supervised visits.

“She’s obviously really happy to be getting out, especially right before Thanksgiving,” her lawyer Shannon Smith told The Detroit News. “This will be easier to prepare for trial.”

Nagarwala smiled at friends and relatives in the courtroom gallery, including her father and her husband, Moiz Nagarwala.

The names of those who pledged to pay the $4.5 million bond were sealed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford.

Her release came despite federal prosecutors calling Nagarwala a danger to the community and a flight risk with ties to Africa and India and access to $2.4 million in assets that could bankroll a prolonged flight from justice. Prosecutors previously emphasized that Nagarwala was arrested in April while trying to board a flight to Kenya for a prearranged visit with two of her four children who study abroad.

Nagarwala is among eight people charged in a case alleging a 12-year conspiracy that involved cutting prepubescent girls as part of a 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.

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

Nagarwala has been jailed since April after prosecutors say two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota were cut at the Burhani Medical Clinic in Livonia.

The procedures 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.

Authorities also allege four girls from Michigan ages 8-12 were cut.

The procedure the government says was performed on the girls by Nagarwala was benign and not female genital mutilation, defense lawyers argue. Some defense lawyers have accused the government of overreaching.

Some members of the Dawoodi Bohra community told prosecutors that genital mutilation is performed to suppress female sexuality, reduce sexual pleasure and curb promiscuity, according to court records. The procedure has no health benefits, according to the World Health Organization.

Nagarwala was freed two weeks ahead of a court hearing during which her lawyers will try to convince U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman to dismiss the most severe charge, a sex count punishable by up to life in federal prison.

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