A federal judge in Detroit called the prosecution vindictive and Tuesday dismissed the nation's first female genital mutilation case. Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin pushed back in a statement, calling the ruling disappointing and defending her staff.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The ritual originated among groups in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press reports:
In dismissing the four-year-old case, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman concluded the prosecution was vindictive in seeking new charges against the accused, who had previously convinced the judge to declare the federal FGM ban as unconstitutional.
"The court concludes that the prosecution in this matter is vindictive. The government obtained the fourth superseding indictment, which asserts new and additional charges, in retaliation for defendants’ past success in having other charges dismissed," Friedman wrote in his ruling. "Such vindictive or retaliatory prosecution is a due process violation of the most basic sort."
The lead defendant is Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, whom prosecutors allege cut the genitals of nine minor girls during after-hours procedures at a Livonia clinic that belonged to her doctor friend, who also was charged in the case. Nagarwala has long denied engaging in genital mutilation, saying the procedure she performed on minor girls was a benign, religious practice that involved only scraping or "shaving" of the genitalia, not cutting.
After the decision, U.S. Attorney Mohsin issued a statement via email:
“We are very disappointed in the Court’s decision today dismissing the indictment. We take our duty to protect children very seriously. Congress sought to protect young girls from the cruelty of the practice of female genital mutilation when it enacted 18 U.S.C. § 116 in 1996. Congress reaffirmed the importance of this law when it re-enacted the statue in 2020 after the Court’s dismissal of the charge in this case as
"Child victims are vulnerable and they deserve our best efforts to hold accountable those who harm them. Our prosecutorial team is comprised of some of our best and most experienced prosecutors. I stand behind them and commend them for their dedication, integrity, and commitment to protect innocent child victims of female genital mutilation.”