(Reuters) - A Michigan doctor and his wife were charged in federal court on Friday with helping a Detroit physician perform genital mutilation on 7-year-old girls.
Fakhruddin Attar, who owns a medical clinic in Livonia, Michigan, and his wife Farida Attar, who works as an office manager there, were accused of allowing Jumana Nagarwala to perform the procedures at their office.
Nagarwala was arrested last week and has been placed on administrative leave from the Detroit hospital where she works as an emergency room doctor. The case appears to be the first brought under a 1996 U.S. law prohibiting the procedure, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Authorities have identified several other young girls who may have undergone the procedure at the clinic, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Some of the girls allegedly traveled to the clinic, which is midway between Detroit and Ann Arbor, from out of state.
Female genital mutilation, or FGM, typically involves removing part or all of the clitoris. The practice is barred by several international treaties but remains a commonplace cultural or religious tradition in some African countries, including Somalia, Sudan and Egypt.
In an interview with federal agents, Fakhruddin Attar said Nagarwala sees young female patients at his clinic for problems with their genitals, including rashes, according to court filings.
Attar also said Nagarwala uses his clinic after hours five or six times per year to see the girls and that his wife is present in the examining room to help comfort the patients, authorities said.
A wiretap on Nagarwala’s phone recorded Farida Attar advising the parent of one alleged victim to deny to law enforcement that the procedure had been performed, according to the complaint.
The Attars were expected to appear in federal court in Detroit later on Friday, the Department of Justice said. A defense lawyer could not immediately be identified.
The World Health Organization estimates more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, which can cause lasting health problems.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Dan Grebler