Feds will appeal controversial genital mutilation ruling

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala of Northville outside federal court in Detroit in September.

Detroit — Federal prosecutors signaled Wednesday they will appeal a judge's decision to dismiss several genital mutilation charges against several doctors last month while ruling a ban on the practice was unconstitutional.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit filed a notice of appeal late Wednesday, four weeks after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman delivered a significant, but not fatal, blow to the first criminal case of its kind nationwide involving female genital mutilation. The judge left intact conspiracy and obstruction charges that could send Dr. Jumana Nagarwala of Northville and three others to federal prison for decades.

The judge's opinion last month drew complaints worldwide that girls were left unprotected against a controversial procedure practiced by some members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a small Muslim sect from India that has a considerable community in Metro Detroit.

Defense lawyers involved in the case had urged Friedman to dismiss several charges in what amounted to the first challenge of a 22-year-old genital mutilation law that went unused until April 2017.

That's when Nagarwala was arrested and accused of heading a conspiracy that lasted 12 years, involved seven other people and led to mutilating the genitalia of nine girls.

Friedman removed four defendants from the case — including three mothers accused of subjecting their daughters to female genital mutilation — while concluding Congress had no authority to enact a law criminalizing female genital mutilation, known as FGM.

“There is nothing commercial or economic about FGM,” Friedman wrote in a 28-page opinion last month. (Female genital mutilation) is not part of a larger market and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce. The Commerce Clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.”


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