SEATTLE -- A pair of teenage girls attacked a woman who is nine-months pregnant and stole her cellphone as she walked home last Tuesday in North Seattle, according to the Seattle Police Department.
The victim left a store on the corner of Northeast Northgate Way and Roosevelt Way Northeast shortly after 6 p.m. and noticed two girls between the ages of 13 and 15 wearing burkas follow her.
According to the police report for the incident, the girls caught up to the victim near Northeast 113th Street and Pinehurst Way Northeast and asked to use her phone.
The victim told the girls they couldn't use her phone, but she would make a phone call for them.
When the phone call didn't work, the girls jumped the victim, knocking her to the ground, according to the report. The victim later told officers one of the girls held her while the other pried the phone out of her hand.
The girls ran off, and officers were unable to find them when they arrived.
Des Moines imam argues sexual exploitation charges violate religious freedom
Des Moines Register
Written by Grant Rodgers
An attorney for a Des Moines Islamic leader charged with sexual abuse and exploitation is asking a judge to drop two of the charges, arguing that they violate the man's religious freedom.
In a motion to dismiss filed last week in Polk County District Court, Des Moines defense attorney Angela Campbell argued that Nermin Spahic, 40, had never met the two women who accused him of sexual abuse before the day of a religious ceremony that led to his arrest. The motion also says that Spahic never claimed to offer "mental health services" or counseling.
Spahic faces one count of third-degree sexual abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist. He was arrested in August after a 42-year-old woman and her 18-year-old daughter told police that Spahic sexually assaulted them during a religious ceremony.
Iowa law spells out that counselors and therapists are barred from "sexual conduct" with patients. But because Spahic never had a formal relationship with the two women, using his religious position to charge him should be unconstitutional, Campbell argued in the motion.
"The ceremony he was performing was not psychotherapy, nor was it counseling," the motion said. "The sexual exploitation charges are therefore necessarily based on his religious identity and the religious nature of his relationships to the accusers."
Additionally, there's no evidence that the two women were "emotionally dependent" upon Spahic, the motion said. Spahic will also argue he is not guilty on the sexual abuse charge at trial.
The woman on Aug. 12 called Spahic to her house in Johnston for help with her daughter, who reportedly suffered personal issues, including depression and drug use, police and court papers said. Spahic allegedly performed an Islamic ceremony that involved "chanting and rubbing the body with oil," court papers said.
In one section of the sealed minutes of evidence, prosecutors "inappropriately refer to Mr. Spahic as a 'Voodoo priest,'" according to the motion. At the time of his arrest Spahic served as the imam - a leader of Islamic prayer services - at the Des Moines Islamic and Cultural Center Bosniak on Lower Beaver Road.
Campbell also filed a motion for a judge to review mental health records of the two women. The mother told police investigating the alleged sexual abuse that her daughter had a "history of mental illness and deception," the motion said.
Spahic bonded out of the Polk County Jail after his arrest and is scheduled for trial on Dec. 2.
Foreign women who marry and move to a Muslim country can be trapped by culture and laws in which they have few rights. One American woman has a harrowing tale.
(Photo: Adam L. Linn)
Sara Rogers spent four years trapped in Palestine until she escaped with her children in 2005
The State Department has said it has "very limited capability" in Gaza regarding kidnapped citizens
LONDON — Gunfire cracked all around Sara Rogers as she climbed to the roof of her high-rise home in Gaza. The year was 2005, and Israeli soldiers were fighting Palestinian gunmen to stop rocket attacks and destroy smuggling tunnels.
Rogers closed her eyes. "Just let one hit me in the head," she begged. "And make it quick."
It was not the months of violence of the Second Intifada that made the Italian-American college graduate ache for death. It was her virtual enslavement by one of the most feared families in the Middle East.
Days later, Rogers was in a taxi with her five children, praying her husband wouldn't catch her and their five children before she reached the Israeli border.
"It was the most relieved I have ever felt," she recalled of her escape to Israel. "Four years of hell was finally over."
Rogers is not the first Western woman to marry an Arab man and find out how few rights she had once removed to a Middle East country that abides by sharia, or Islamic law. But some are working to make her among the last.
Micah Thorner, director of post-convention support programs at the Hague, said such cases will be the subject of a gathering in Tunisia this month "to engage states that are based on sharia legal systems in dialogue with states that are party to the convention."
Thorner said the aim is to get sharia nations to agree on some principles for the resolution of parental disputes involving children. But many nations in the Middle East have not signed on to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international agreement protecting against detainment of children.
"As the convention gains wider acceptance throughout the world, these types of situations are probably less likely to occur," Thorner said.
The ordeal of an American woman who was held captive with her child by her husband in Iran was chronicled in the 1991 book and film "Not Without My Daughter." And a French woman who escaped her Saudi prince husband has yet to be rejoined with her daughter despite a 2012 French court ruling ordering the husband to turn over the child.
The U.S. State Department does not keep records on its citizens who are kidnapped on foreign soil. Though it does try to put pressure on governments for an American's release, State has gone on record in the past that it has "very limited capability" in Gaza.
When such kidnappings do occur, it often appears as a surprise to women as it was to Rogers, a bright multicultural studies student from upstate New York.
Rogers was living with her mother in Las Cruces, a city on the Rio Grande in New Mexico, when she became enchanted by a soft-spoken Arab man working at the Middle Eastern cafe where she'd often study.
"I was the feminist, the rebel, everything you could imagine," she said. Hatem Abu Taha proposed to her three days after they met. They were married soon after.
"The morning after we wed, my husband got up to meet his friends," she recalled. "I was like, 'What? We're newlyweds.'"
"He just told me he was doing guy things and I could do woman things," she said in an interview at her home outside Boston.
Rogers worked as a nurse assistant but hoped for better. She completed a master's degree and was preparing to write a book. Her husband rarely worked. He spoke often of his native land.
The couple had three children and were expecting a fourth when Taha said it was time they traveled to the Middle East to visit his Palestinian relatives. It was 2001.
Taha's family lived in Rafah, a city on the border with Egypt from which Palestinian militants launched Qassam rockets into Israel.
Rogers was surprised to see that Taha's family appeared to be well off. They owned, he told her, Gaza's only cigarette patent. She was also not ready for what happened to her husband.
Taha was ultra-patriotic, she said, and passive to the will of his family who were hostile to the American in their home. After two weeks, Rogers said her kids were "breaking down." Her eldest son was suffering anxiety attacks. Her 2-year-old daughter had contracted dysentery.
When they arrived two weeks before, carpenters were building a third-floor addition to the family home. Taha told Rogers it was for his brother and his wife. But when the work was done, Taha told her the unit was where she would live.
Rogers was distressed and said she wanted the family to return home to the United States.
"He just laughed: 'You have no embassy here. You have no family. No one.' I was in shock," she said.
Her mother-in-law was the cruelest, she said, patrolling the downstairs so Rogers didn't escape. The children were called "Yehudi"(Jews) and bullied constantly at school. Her husband told her the children were his and that she was nothing but "a vessel."
"I did not exist as a person," she said.
There was worse to come. Rogers said Taha struck her and broke her jaw for not cleaning the refrigerator properly. And she was suspicious that her in-laws weren't just involved in cigarette trading.
They would have lengthy conversations with members of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group whose urban warfare tactics Rogers witnessed firsthand.
"The Palestinians would get inside a local school and start shooting from the windows," she said. "And the Israelis would just fire back. Then you'd see people holding up dead Palestinian kids."
When Rogers pleaded to move away from the perilous border with Israel, her father-in-law refused, claiming it would be an honor for them to be "martyred." It was soon clear the family was active in terror networks. Israeli aerial attacks were common.
"We could hear the helicopter coming a mile away: tick, tick, tick, tick," Rogers said. "Then it would drop the bomb."
Rogers' eldest son was injured by an Israeli tank shell. Her newborn son chewed holes in his feet because of the stress. One night, Taha and his nephew Yahya didn't return from a trip.
"On the BBC was a report that two Palestinians from Islamic Jihad had claimed an attack and a young man and his wife were dead," said Rogers. "My sister-in-law came up the stairs crying happily, saying that Yahya was now a martyr and in heaven. I had to get out."
On a trip to Gaza City to meet a family friend, Rogers slipped away while the men were at afternoon prayers. In her burka, she had heard that illegal taxis brought people from Gaza to Israel and pleaded with a local store owner to call her one.
"I asked the cab driver how long it took to Erez and he said half an hour. I said, 'If you can make it in 15 minutes, you can have every bit of gold I have.' He got me to the border."
Rogers said that speaking about her life in Palestine helps ease the pain. But it will be a long time until she recovers. "I try to take the positives from everything," she said. "I meet good people and everything makes me grateful."
"My kids are smart, funny, you'd never have guessed what they went through," she added. "I tell them that it was a bad thing but that it was given to them for a reason. They can make their lives count."
Caracas (AFP) - A Toronto-bound flight was stopped shortly before departure from Caracas when four Iranians and an Afghan were found aboard with fake tickets and no visas, Venezuelan officials said Saturday.
The captain of Air Canada Flight 075 discovered there were five extra passengers aboard his flight as it was scheduled to depart late Friday, said Luis Graterol, the head of the Simon Bolivar Maiquetia International Airport.
All those on board were forced to disembark and military officials identified the suspicious passengers, Graterol told the state-run Venezuelan News Agency.
The Iranians and the Afghan "did not have a visa to enter Canada, nor legitimate tickets," Graterol said.
He added that the flight had been delayed for five hours due to the incident.
The office of Venezuela's prosecutor general said that charges will be pressed against four people in the case: a member of Venezuela’s immigration office, an Air Canada employee, and two workers with an airport security company.
The suspects will face charges "linked to the illegal trafficking of five foreigners" at the Simon Bolivar airport, the office said in a statement.
No details were given on whether the five illegal passengers would face charges.
The security lapse comes after 1.3 tonnes of cocaine were found aboard an Air France jet that departed from the same airport in September and landed in Paris.
At least 28 people have been detained in that case, including eight members of Venezuela's National Guard, various airport officials, and an Air France employee.