DETROIT, MI -- In an attempt to get a Detroit-area doctor accused of female genital mutilation freed on bond, her attorney cites expansion of the criminal investigation to Chicago, Los Angeles and Minnesota.
Due to the complexity of the case, and the fact that much of the evidence involves wire taps and communications in a foreign language, attorney Shannon M. Smith says her client, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, deserves to be released from jail to participate in her own defense.
" ... The Government will be seeking further superseding indictments for other defendants based on target letters received by members of the community and recent target letters sent to potential defendants in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Minnesota," Smoth wrote in a court filing. "This case is particularly complicated to defend due to the fact that Dr. Nagarwala speaks a foreign language and much of the discovery received to date requires translation."
U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman was scheduled to hear arguments on the matter at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Smith, while maintaining the procedures Nagarwala performed after hours at a Livionia clinic weren't female genital mutilation, indicates constitutionally protected religious rights "will be the subject of future litigation in this case."
The focus of this case is genital cutting performed, coordinated or overseen by Metro Detroit members of the Dawoodi Bohras, a Shiite branch of Islam based in India, with more than 1 million followers nationwide.
The religious custom, often intended to reduce female sexual pleasure, is also called female genital cutting and female circumcision. U.S. law forbids removal of "the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years."
The case began with charges related to two 7-year-old girls who were transported to Livonia for the purpose of female genital mutilation, according to the government, but the scope of the case is much larger than that, the government contends.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Woodward previously said in court it's possible the Nagarwala performed nearly 100 procedures over the 12-year period between 2005 and 2017.
Also charged in the case are Tahera Shafiq and Farida Attar, 50, who are believed to have assisted Nagarwala with multiple female genital mutilation procedures.
Farida Attar's husband, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, owner of the since-closed Livonia clinic where the procedures took places, is also charged in the case.
After it became clear the federal government was investigating Nagarwala and others related to female genital mutilation, the government claims the defendants attempted to interfere with the investigation by instructing possible witnesses to remain silent if confronted by law enforcement.
Shafiq and the Attars have been released on bond. Nagarwala remains jailed.
The defendants are believed members of Anjuman-e-Najmi Detroit, a Farmington Hills mosque attended by Detroit-area Dawoodi Bohras.