Detroit-area doctor charged with female genital mutilation released on bond
DETROIT (WEYI) -- The first person ever charged with the federal crime of female genital mutilation was back in court Tuesday.
Doctor Jumana Nagarwala walked out of the federal courthouse in Detroit on a tether as part of a four-and-a-half million dollar bond.
She's accused of cutting the genitals of two seven-year-old Minnesota girls who traveled to a Livonia, Michigan clinic back in February.
Nagarwala's attorney Shannon Smith says what she did wasn't a crime, it was a religious rite of passage from her Indian culture that didn't involve cutting.
"When it comes to female genital mutilation, there's a very huge range in terms of genital cutting. Not all genital cutting is mutilation. There's far more to this case and we plan to try it in the courtroom," said Smith.
Prosecutors allege Nagarwala performed the procedures after hours at a clinic in Farmington Hills.
The doctor belongs to the Dawoodi Bohra Sect from India and worshipped at this mosque in Farmington Hills.
Smith said for her client this is all about religion, "It's protected religious freedom under the First and Fourteenth Amendment."
This case is being charged at the federal level because when the alleged crimes were committed female genital mutilation was not against the law in Michigan.
Under federal law, the penalty is five years in prison.
State Representative Vanessa Guerra from Saginaw sponsored a bill that was signed into law in June making female genital mutilation a crime in Michigan.
"We are happy that she is going to see her day in court and that she will be prosecuted. But again we don't think the federal five law at years is enough of a penalty," said Rep. Guerra.
Nagarwala's attorney plans to argue at a hearing in two weeks that the sex assault charges against Nagarwala should be dropped.
Smith claims this has nothing to do with sex.
However, this case is prompting state and federal officials to take a new look at laws aimed at preventing female genital mutilation.
"At the end of the day it has to do with trying to import a very different code, a religious or societal code or religious code into our country and that's not permissible under our Constitution," said Frank Gaffney from the Center for Security Policy.
"An individual who performs female genital mutilation could face 15 years in prison and will lose their license to practice and if they are found to bring someone here to Michigan for fgm they can face penalties for that as well," said Rep. Guerra.
Nagarwala has been released to the custody of her father. If she violates her bond she will forfeit her $4.5 million dollars and she will be sent back to jail. Nagarwala's next court appearance will be December 5th.