16 September 2021: A Muslim doctor on trial for allegedly performing genital mutilation on nine girls, all seven years-old, was also part of a secret network of physicians who traveled across the country performing the brutal procedure, according to federal prosecutors. Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was cleared of female genital mutilation charges in November 2018 during the nation’s first-of-its-kind case, when a federal judge ruled that a law banning the practice was unconstitutional. The same charges were brought against Attar’s wife, Farida, and a woman named Tahera Shafiq, who assisted in the procedure, as well as four women who tricked their daughters into going to the suburban clinic to undergo the practice for religious purposes. US District Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed all but one obstruction charge against Nagarwala, Attar, his wife Farida and Shafiq in November 2018. He declared a 1996 federal law banning the practice unconstitutional and concluded that it’s up to the states to regulate female genital mutilation. The obstruction trial was underway until the coronavirus pandemic hit and brought it to a halt. Then, in March, prosecutors issued a superseding indictment with five new charges, including conspiracy to make false statements and witness tampering, the Detroit Free Press reported. Prosecutors argue that that Nagarwala and her three cohorts lied to the FBI about the mutilations that they were performing and intimidated others in their community to lie if the FBI interviewed them about it. The four defendants requested Thursday’s hearing to dismiss the case altogether, arguing that the prosecutors were only pursuing the new charges out of retaliation. ‘The government is acting with
extreme prosecutorial vindictiveness in issuing yet another superseding indictment nearly half a decade after charges were first issued,’ the defense argued in court filings, seen by the Detroit Free Press, adding that the new charges are ‘retaliation for the defense successfully decimating the government’s case.’ Friedman said Thursday that he would take their arguments into consideration, but was still reviewing the new indictment and would make a decision at a later date. Nagarwala, who is an emergency room doctor at Henry Ford Health System, was arrested in April 2017 after two young girls accused her of performing the mutilation procedures on them earlier that year. She denied the allegations and claimed she was performing a religious practice for families in the Muslim sect, Dawoodi Bohras, and that it only involved scraping the membrane of the girls’ genitalia as part of the religious custom. But doctors’ reports obtained by the Detroit Free Press indicate the children suffered more severe injuries including scarring, a small tear, lacerations and what appeared to be the surgical removal of a portion of genitalia. Authorities claimed she and her cohorts have been part of a female genital mutilation scheme since 2005 and charged her with mutilation of seven other girls from Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota. Their alleged victims cried, screamed and bled during the procedure, with one drugged with Valium ground in liquid Tylenol to calm her down during the procedure, according to court records. Prosecutors later argued that Nagarwala completed mutilation procedures on as many as 100 young girls over the course of a decade who were all told to keep the surgeries a secret. Then, on Thursday, prosecutors brought forward more accusations that Nagarwala wasn’t the only doctor performing the mass mutilations. Department of Justice attorney Amy Markopoulos told a judge that such doctors ‘were in demand’ by the Dawoodi Bohra community, which has a mosque in Detroit and practices female circumcision as a religious rite of passage that supporters claim only involves only a minor ‘nick’ of the genitals. This was not a discreet, one time occasion … It was not arbitrary,’ Markopoulos said of the mutilation practice. ‘Travel is often necessary to perform the procedure.’ In Friedman’s 2018 ruling, he said that ‘as despicable as this practice may be,’ Congress did not have the authority to pass its criminalization and it is up to the states to decide its legality. He wrote in his conclusion that it is a ‘ “local criminal activity” which, in keeping with long-standing tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward argued that the practice was still deemed illegal by Congress when the defendants performed them, but they did it anyway. She also said that Nargarwala ‘is aware that female genital mutilation has no medical purpose,’ reported the Detroit Free Press. Female genital mutilation has been condemned by the United Nations but is common for girls in some parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.