U.S. authorities on Friday arrested a Detroit doctor and his wife for allowing another doctor to perform female genital mutilation on minors at their clinic in Michigan.
In a case that has drawn international attention, Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, were charged with conspiring with Jumana Nagarwala, 44, to perform FGM on girls between 6 and 8 in the clinic in Livonia, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Friday.
The Attars were scheduled to appear in federal court Friday afternoon in Detroit. Nagarwala was arrested April 12 and ordered detained on pending trial.
Nagarwala and the Attars were thought to be the first people charged under a 1996 law that made performing female genital mutilation a crime in the United States. If convicted, they face up to five years in prison.
The complaint identified the three as members of “a religious and cultural community known to practice female genital mutilation.” The Detroit News later identified the community as Dawoodi Bohra, a small Shi’ite Muslim community with origins in South Asia.
According to the complaint, Fakhruddin Attar owns and operates the Livonia medical clinic and arranged for Nagarwala to perform female genital procedures. Farida Attar was accused of assisting Nagarwala during the procedures.
Attar told federal agents that Nagarwala “sees minor girls for problems with their genitals, including treatment of genital rashes,” and that she does not charge for her procedures, according to the criminal complaint.
Senior officials last week called the charges alleged in the case “disturbing” and “deplorable,” and said U.S. law enforcement agencies “are committed to doing whatever is necessary to bring an end to this barbaric practice, and to ensure no additional children fall victim to this procedure.”
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation into Nagarwala after receiving a tip that she was performing FGM. Using telephone records and video surveillance, investigators tracked two Minnesota couples and their 7-year-old daughters as they visited Nagarwala at the Livonia clinic.
One of the girls later told an FBI child forensics expert that the two girls were brought to Detroit for “a special girls’ trip” and that Nagarwala later told her that she was going to perform a procedure to “get the germs out” of her body.