Husband of doctor in mutilation case can return home
The husband of a local physician charged with Michigan’s first indicted female genital mutilation case will be allowed to return home with his children, a Wayne County Juvenile Court judge ruled Tuesday.
“It’s a huge victory for the dad,” said attorney Shannon Smith, who represents the mother, Dr. Jumana Nargawala. “There’s no reason why dad should be separated from these children.”
The physician is jailed on federal charges of performing genital mutilation on two 7-year-old Minnesota girls and allegedly conspiring to cover up the illegal procedure. Nagarwala’s husband, has not been charged in the case.
The father had been ordered to leave the home and have only supervised visitation with his children while the proceedings in the case are held before Wayne County Juvenile Court Judge Frank S. Szymanski.
“It gives the court maximum opportunity to do what’s necessary to protect the children,” Szymanski said at a custody hearing for the couple. “Yet I’m going to allow him to reside in the home. The children are not placed with the father but I’m going to allow him to be there in the home.”
Syzmanski said the children, a pre-teen girl and a 6-year-old boy, will be under supervision by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The children’s grandparents are caring for children in the family’s home.
Attorney Cynthia Nunez, who represents the couple’s children, said the state’s petition in the case alleges one of the children “has been battered, tortured or otherwise severely physically abused.”
“That alone is enough, pretrial, to remove children from parents,” Nunez said at the hearing. “From the parent who alleged to have done it and from the parent who failed to protect that child.”
The state of Michigan filed a petition against the couple last month seeking to sever the couple’s parental rights as questions arose about the safety of the children, particularly their daughter and whether she has undergone female genital mutilation.
A trial on the state’s request won’t be scheduled until after Nagarwala’s trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit is heard. Smith, the attorney for Nagarwala, said the trial is expected to begin in October but cautioned that it could be held later.
“People will conclude this was not a FGN (female genital mutilation) case,” said Smith. “We deny that FGM took place. What did take place we will spell those things out ... at trial.” Smith also said there has not been any female genital mutilation involving the couple’s daughter.
Assistant Michigan Attorney General Kelli Megyesi told Szymanski that the state of Michigan does not object to the father returning home to the children as long as there are “certain conditions” met such as state supervision of the children, the children getting medical treatment and counseling and that the passports of the father be surrendered. State authorities also asked that the passports of the children be surrendered.
Megyesi said while the state authorities are not saying “there is no risk of harm to the children,” she said there is no “imminent risk of harm if the children are in the home with their dad.”
The father’s attorney, Sonia Cannon, asked Szymanski to allow him to return to the home with his children; Cannon said the state of Michigan did not ask for the dad’s removal from the family’s home.
“There’s been not one word about my client knowing anything (about the allegations),” said Cannon.
Also on Tuesday, Megyesi told the judge that the state’s complaint has been amended to correct earlier statements made in court that Nargawala was paid by her mosque to perform female general mutilation. “This allegation is not accurate and that allegation will be removed (from official records),” said Megyesi.
Mosque officials denied those claims last week in a statement. Nunez made comments June 13 alleging that the mosque paid Nagarwala to perform the controversial procedures. Nunez said Tuesday she got the information during a preliminary examination, held June 8, from state officials.
Szymanski said he will order that the transcript from the June 8 preliminary examination detailing allegations in the case be sealed because to protect the identity of the couple’s children.