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Criminal defense will assert religious rights in mutilation case

Despite the presumption of innocence, courts in Michigan and elsewhere do not always provide bail to seemingly deserving defendants. In a recent case in Detroit, a federal court judge has denied bail to a doctor who is accused of performing genital mutilation on girls from a Muslim sect. The decision to deny bail is questionable, especially in light of the woman's likely criminal defense.

One way in which the prosecutor may sway a judge to deny bail is to claim that the defendant is a risk to run. The court denied bail on that basis, even though the defendant is a U.S. born citizen. In addition, with modern electronic tracking devices, it is unlikely that the accused would find a way to escape the country. Furthermore, the holding of her passport will make it even more difficult for her to abscond.

The court's decision was even more questionable due to the fact that about three dozen people were in the court room supporting the doctor and her performing a "sacred religious practice" on the girls. Presumably, many of those present were the so-called victims and their families. Specifically, the defense argues that the girls were all members of the Indian Muslim sect called the Dawoodi Bohra.

The freedom of religion argument may be a viable criminal defense in the case, and that fact argues additionally in favor of the granting of bond for this U.S. citizen. The defense of religious freedom will likely depend on the degree of physical damage to the girls and whether there are any long-range detriments that they will suffer. The precise nature of the cutting procedure is unclear. The case is the first of its kind in Michigan and nationwide.

Source: The Washington Post, "Michigan doctor to stay in jail in genital mutilation case", Ed White, July 19, 2017

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