Bid to end parental rights advances in mutilation case
Pontiac — An Oakland County Juvenile Court referee authorized a petition Tuesday that could eventually end the parental rights of a Farmington Hills couple facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation on young girls.
Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida, are both jailed and did not attend the preliminary probable cause hearing on a request from child welfare officials seeking to terminate custody of their daughter.
Referee Karla Mallett said she decided to forward the petition to a judge after hearing concerns Tuesday from a state Child Protection Service worker and a doctor who examined the Attars’ daughter.
The daughter is living with her grandparents in her parents’ home with Mallett’s permission. Mallett has ordered the girl’s first name not be released by the media.
The Attars, along with Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, are charged in a conspiracy involving members of a small Shia Muslim sect, the Dawoodi Bohra, whose members hail mostly from western India. The three were indicted last month by a federal grand jury and accused of cutting two 7-year-old Minnesota girls brought to Metro Detroit for the illegal surgeries in February.
The sect, which is based locally out of a Farmington Hills mosque and includes about 125 families, is embroiled in a widening conspiracy that emerged last month in federal court following an investigation by the FBI and Homeland Security. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife operated a clinic in Livonia where some of the surgeries were allegedly performed and Nagarwala’s husband is a trustee with the mosque, according to Oakland County court records.
Nagarwala, who also faces criminal conspiracy charges, was formerly employed at Henry Ford Hospital. She has denied she performed the procedures on anyone but the petition alleges they took place after hours at the clinic and were paid for by the mosque.
Child Protective Services is part of the state Department of Health and Human Services and often works jointly with other agencies in child welfare investigations and child custody matters.
At Tuesday’s hearing, CPS worker Katie Campbell told Mallett she interviewed the girl at her school April 10 and spoke with Farida Attar. Campbell said she found the girl to be “happy, upbeat and smart.” But Campbell also filed the petition to have the girl removed from her parents’ custody, saying an assessment indicated a “high level of risk” in an “aggravated circumstance case.”
Dr. Dena Nazer, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University specializing in child abuse, told Mallett she examined the girl on April 25 at Kids Talk Child Advocacy Center in Detroit. She was accompanied by an adult brother and an aunt.
The Attar girl’s temporary living arrangement will be revisited by Child Protection Service workers and a guardian ad litem, Karen Gullberg Cook.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled at 8:30 a.m. on June 13 before Oakland Circuit Judge Victoria Valentine.
Two other similar cases involving parental rights also will be heard by Valentine. In those cases, parents have not been charged with any crimes and the children have been permitted to remain at home.