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Defendants in Mich. mutilation case want to see photos of alleged victims' genitalia

Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT -- The defense in Michigan's historic genital mutilation case is demanding the government turn over "the most significant piece" of evidence: photos and videos of the genitalia of the young girls who are listed as the victims in the case.

The photos are key evidence because the defendants have always maintained that there was no cutting involved in the procedure, just a minor scraping. The government alleges it was more than that.

With trial two months away, the defense is claiming that prosecutors have either "failed or refused" to turn over crucial information that was requested months ago.

"Namely, the government has failed to provide the most significant piece of discovery in this case -- the video and photographs of medical examinations conducted by the government's expert," defense attorney Matt Newburg wrote in a Tuesday filing that has drawn support from all of the accused.

Newburg is representing Farida Attar, who along with five others is accused of subjecting numerous girls to genital cutting procedures at her husband's Livonia clinic as part of a religious practice. Attar is accused of holding the girls' hands to keep them calm while a doctor performed the procedure.

The six defendants -- including two doctors, a physician's wife and two mothers -- are all members of a small Indian Muslim sect known as the Dawoodi Bohra.

So far, the government has identified six minor victims: four from the Detroit area and two from Minnesota. Federal prosecutors have said the chief suspect in the case, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, may have performed the procedure on up to 100 young girls over the past dozen years.

But the defendants maintain they never engaged in any actual cutting, but rather only scraped membrane from the genitalia as part of a religious practice. They believe the government has exaggerated the case and are now demanding to see the government's photographs and videos of the alleged victims' genitalia so they can prepare for trial.

According to court documents, the photos and videos will be shown at trial. They were taken by Dr. Dena Nazer, who performed medical exams on 13 minor Bohra girls based on concerns that they were victims of genital cutting.

According to court documents, Nazer used a video colposcopy to magnify the genitalia up to 15 times its actual size. Based on her observations, court records state, she concluded that genital mutilation procedures had been conducted on the girls, triggering indictments.

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