2 more couples’ custody at risk in mutilation case

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Two more Metro Detroit couples face petitions from state welfare officials seeking to terminate their parental rights amidst a growing federal investigation into female genital mutilation.

The two couples, who have not been charged, went before a Wayne County juvenile judge Friday for a pretrial hearing on the state’s bid to strip their custody. Also before the court: a third custody case involving Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, who is jailed on charges of performing genital mutilation on two 7-year-old Minnesota girls and conspiring to cover up the illegal surgery.

Nagarwala’s husband, who has not been charged, also appeared at the hearing. His wife was allowed to participate in the proceedings via a telephone hookup in the courtroom. There was no testimony by the couples Friday.

The cases considered Friday bring the number of families facing custody termination petitions to six in connection with a federal mutilation investigation.

Under an agreement with the state, the Nagarwalas’ children and those of the two other couples will remain with their parents for now but under a long list of conditions through supervision by Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Among them: turning over medical releases for the children, agreeing not to discuss the case or allow other relatives to do so with the children, having trauma counseling for the children, agreeing that there be “no more” female genital mutilations performed and getting approval from authorities and the court before the children can travel out of state or out of the country.

Judge Frank S. Szymanski said in court: “I’m going to expect parents ... if they become aware of someone talking to the children about this case that they immediately terminate (the conversation).”

Nagarwala is allowed supervised visits with her children at the Huron County Jail in Bad Axe. Her attorney, Shannon Smith, said the children’s phone conversations and visits with their mother are taped.

Any conversations during the visits must be conducted in English, said Assistant Attorney General Kelli Megyesi.

Hearings for the Nagarwalas and the other two couples are scheduled to continue next month before Szymanski.

The Nagarwalas’ hearing will resume at 2:45 p.m. June 13. One of the other couples will appear at 2 p.m. the same day. The third couple is scheduled to come back to court at 10:30 a.m. June 15.

Earlier this week, an Oakland County Juvenile Court referee approved a petition that could terminate the parental rights of a Farmington Hills couple, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 52, and his 50-year-old wife, Farida. The couple are co-defendants in the case against Jumana Nagarwala and are jailed while awaiting further proceedings.

The Attars did not attend Tuesday’s hearing. The couple’s daughter is staying with relatives.

Oakland County Juvenile Court Referee Karla Mallett ruled to have the petition forwarded to a judge after hearing arguments from a Michigan Child Protective Service worker and a physician who examined the couple’s child.

The alleged female genital mutilation conspiracy involves members of a small Shia Muslim sect, the Dawoodi Bohra. Locally, about 125 families belong to a Farmington Hills mosque that includes Nagarwala and the Attars as members.

The allegations surfaced last in a criminal complaint filed last month in federal court. The defendants allegedly lied to federal agents and destroyed evidence in the case.

The procedures allegedly occurred at the Attars’ medical facility, the Burhani Medical Clinic on Farmington Road near Five Mile.

Two other couples, not charged in the case, also are subjects of a complaint by state welfare officials to end their parental right. In a hearing May 9, an Oakland County Juvenile Court referee allowed the couples of both children to remain with them while the mutilation investigation continues.


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