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Charges in case of genital mutilation

A SYDNEY sheikh has been charged in relation to the genital mutilation of two young girls, with police alleging that he harboured those responsible and advised members of his community to lie to police about the prevalence of the practice within their ranks.

Shabbir Mahammedbhai Vazir, a sheikh from the small south-western Sydney community that follows the Dawoodi Bohra sub-sect of Islam, was arrested yesterday and charged with two counts of accessory after the fact of female genital mutilation.

The 56-year-old was also charged with hindering an investigation of a serious indictable offence.

Police allege that Sheikh Vazir helped to cover up the mutilation of two girls, aged six and seven, which took place some time between October 2010 and October 2011. The mutilation was allegedly carried out by a 68-year-old retired nurse who was also arrested yesterday and charged with two counts of genital mutilation.

Superintendent John Kerlatec, from the Sex Crimes Squad, said police believed the act took place in a suburban home with ''some medical conditions in place''.

Last Friday a 42-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman, believed to be the parents of the children, were charged with two counts each of female genital mutilation. They were granted bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court on September 26.

Police allege that, in addition to harbouring the couple, Sheikh Vazir told members of the Dawoodi Bohra community to lie to police about the prevalence of female genital mutilation within the community, with the intention to ''hinder the investigation of a serious offence''.

Yesterday the sheikh was granted bail in Burwood Local Court.

Magistrate Chris Longley was told that the sheikh represented a flight risk and that he was preparing to fly to India, a country for which he has a passport, when police arrived to arrest him.

''Objectively, to the overwhelming majority of the community, this is a most serious set of circumstances,'' Mr Longley said.

But he found that Sheikh Vazir had no other criminal convictions and granted bail after he agreed to surrender his and his family's passports and put up a $2000 surety.

Superintendent Kerlatec said the arrests were part of a continuing investigation into female genital mutilation but that they were not aware of any other incidents within Sheikh Vazir's community.

''The community has been forthcoming. Sadly, there's people in the community who think it's an acceptable practice.''

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