nagarwala charge

Jumana Nagarwala, who has been absolved of several charges of performing female genital mutilation, still faces conspiracy and obstruction charges, which could send the Indian American physician to federal prison for several decades. (photo via twitter)

Physician Jumana Nagarwala, who has been absolved of several charges relating to the genital mutilation of several girls at a Michigan clinic, tried Nov. 29 to get one remaining charge of conspiracy dismissed.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed female genital mutilation charges against Nagarwala and others, noting that the practice of FGM is up to states, rather than Congress to regulate.

“Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit (female genital mutilation),” Friedman wrote in a 28-page opinion, as reported by the Associated Press.

Michigan was the 26th U.S. state to officially ban the practice, also known as female circumcision or cutting. The state law was passed a few months after Nagarwala’s April 2017 arrest. 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.

But still pending are conspiracy and obstruction charges, which could send Nagarwala and three others involved with the procedures to federal prison for several decades.

Nagarwala and the three others involved, are members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Mumbai. Nine prepubescent girls were cut at Dr. Fakhruddin Attar's clinic in Livonia, which was managed by his wife, Dr. Farida Attar, who also is charged in the case. (See earlier India-West story here.)

According to court documents and local media reports, Haseena Halfal and Zainab Hariyanawala of Minnesota brought their daughters to Detroit in February 2017 to undergo female genital mutilation, which brought about the charges of conspiracy to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

But Nagarwala’s attorney Shannon Smith argued in a court filing Nov. 29 that there was no conspiracy, nor an agreement to commit a crime, as reported by the Detroit Daily News.

"Assuming that the government’s claims are true, Mrs. Halfal and Mrs. Hariyanawala traveled, but they did not engage in illicit sexual conduct with another person," Smith wrote. "Likewise, while Dr. Nagarwala may have engaged in the claimed conduct, she did not travel in interstate commerce. The government cannot merge the conduct of these different individuals to meet the required statutory elements."

The U.S. Attorney's Office opposes the request to dismiss the conspiracy charge. Separately, prosecutors are reviewing the judge's order and will soon decide whether to appeal dismissal of the mutilation charge.

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