According to a federal prosecutor, a Michigan doctor and her cohorts may have performed genital mutilation on up to 100 young girls.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward revealed the number in court on June 7, while she argued that Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife Farida Attar, 50, should be behind bars in a case involving two girls from Minnesota, the Detroit Free Press reports. The girls allegedly had their genitals cut at a clinic, and were told not to tell anyone what had transpired.
Fakhruddin was accused of allowing Dr. Jumana Nagarwala to use his clinic to perform the procedures on young girls, and his wife allegedly held the victims' hands as their genitals were cut, to stop them from moving.
One of the alleged victims told investigators that Nagarwala had "pinched" her in "the place where she goes pee" and a medical examination revealed that a part of her genitals had been removed, according to The Detroit News.
"Their pants and underwear were removed, and Dr. Nagarwala approached with a sharp tool to cut their genitals," said Woodward.
The trio was accused of subjecting a number of girls to genital mutilation over the course of 12 years, and the government has found eight alleged victims so far. Woodward estimated there could be up to 100 girls -- a conservative estimate, she said. According to Farida, he allowed Nagarwala to perform procedures on the girls up to six times a year at his clinic.
Fakhruddin and Nagarwala were charged with transportation of an individual with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and face up to life prison if convicted, while Attar faces up to 20 years, according to Michigan Radio.
"Due to the secretive nature of this procedure, we are unlikely to ever know how many children were cut by Dr. Nagarwala," said Woodward. "The Minnesota victims were not the first victims."
"I think the government has overstated so many aspects of this case and this is one more example of overreaching," said Mary Chartier, the Attars' lawyer. Chartier argued that the procedure that the defendants performed was a religious rite of passage protected under the law.
The defense also said the procedure did not involve cutting the genitals, but instead scraping membrane from the genitals.
Judge Bernard Friedman granted bail to the Attars, under the conditions they surrender their passports and remain under house arrest.
The couple will also not be allowed to live with their 9-year-old daughter, as state officials seek to take away their parental rights.
"I think he is thrilled," Chartier said when asked about Fakhruddin, adding that her client was "anxious to fight this case and clear his name."
Nagarwala will remain in custody until her trial, although her lawyer, Shannon Smith, said she will seek to have Nagarwala released on bail.
A trial for the case is set to start on Oct. 10.