DETROIT, MI (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Friday expanded their investigation of female genital mutilation in the Detroit area by filing charges against the owner of a clinic where the alleged practice was performed on two girls who belong to a Muslim sect.
Dr. Fakhruddin Attar was aware that another doctor was performing the illegal procedure at his Livonia clinic after hours, and his wife, Farida, offered assistance, the government said in a criminal complaint.
The charges against the Attars, including conspiracy, came a week after Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was arrested and accused of genital mutilation against two 7-year-old Minnesota girls in February.
The Attars appeared briefly in federal court and were returned to jail to await another hearing Wednesday. A judge will decide at that time whether to keep them locked up without bond.
“Dr. Attar is not aware that any crimes were committed at his clinic,” defense attorney Mary Chartier said outside court.
Farida Attar’s attorney declined to comment.
In a court filing, federal agents said they interviewed Dr. Attar and were told that Nagarwala treats girls who have problems with their genitals, including rashes, on Friday nights or Saturdays at no charge.
Genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision or cutting, has been condemned by the United Nations and outlawed in the U.S. But the practice is common for girls in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The Attars and Nagarwala belong to a Muslim sect called Dawoodi Bohra, which is concentrated in India.
Nagarwala was ordered to jail this week without bond while her case winds through court. Her attorney, Shannon Smith, said the doctor removed mucous from the Minnesota girls as part of a religious custom. Smith said it wasn’t genital mutilation or even a medical procedure. Prosecutors disagree.
Meanwhile, the Detroit-area congregation of Dawoodi Bohra released a statement Friday, saying members do not support any violation of U.S. law. A subsequent email said there would be no further comment.
“It is unfortunate if anyone has not abided by the laws of the country. … We take our religion seriously but our culture is modern and forward-looking,” the statement said.