Muslim Parents Scrap Agreement On Runaway Daughter

Filed under: In The News

Fathima Rifqa Bary sits in court during her hearing in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009. Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda, Orlando Sentinel / MCT


And they lived happily ever after?

Not so fast.

Two weeks ago, it looked like the Muslim parents of Fathima Rifqa Bary had come to terms with their daughter running away from home and converting to Christianity.

They reached an agreement with the girl's lawyer that said she she could stay in foster care until her 18th birthday in August. Meanwhile, they would work on reconciling their differences through a mediator.

Now Mohamed and Aysha Bary of Columbus, Ohio, say that deal was made without them ever sitting in the same room as their daughter. The Columbus Dispatch reports the couple is withdrawing from the agreement.
"The parents now believe the entire deal should be thrown out because of misrepresentation and fraudulent inducement," reads a motion filed in Franklin County Juvenile Court late last week.

The motion adds that the Barys object to all agreements made Jan. 19 and want the case to go to trial.

The drama began in July when Rifqa Bary left her home in Ohio and took a bus to Orlando, Fla. She stayed at the home of evangelical ministers Blake and Beverly Lorenz after meeting the couple on Facebook. The couple kept her whereabouts a secret from authorities.

Bary claimed her parents are radical Muslims, and that her father or radical Muslims in Ohio would kill her for converting to Christianity. (Authorities in Florida and Ohio later investigated such fears and concluded they were unfounded.)

Authorities discovered Bary in August. They took her away from the Lorenzes and placed her with foster families in the Orlando area.

Bary's parents demanded she be returned to their custody. Many conservative Christians -- usually strong supporters of parental rights -- took up the girl's cause. They held demonstrations and flooded Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's office with letters and e-mails.

Circuit Court Judge Daniel Lawson ordered Bary back to Ohio in October. However, she remains in foster care while the legal fight drags on.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Franklin County officials promised to shield Bary from the people who helped her run away. However, in the motion filed last week, her parents accuse officials of allowing Bary to talk with Blake and Beverly Lorenz.

The parents also point to a card reading "Happy birthday, Daddy" sent to Blake Lorenz from Bary through her lawyer, Angela Lloyd.

Two separate motions by the parents ask the court to remove Lloyd as Bary's counsel and Bonnie Vangeloff as her guardian. The parents' lawyer, Omar Tarazi, also filed an emergency motion that all contact between Bary and those who "assisted in her unruly behavior" be prohibited because of a pending criminal investigation.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the Lorenzes are under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their involvement with Bary.

The Lorenzes, in turn, have filed complaints of their own. According to the Dispatch, one of them accuses a former official at their church of opening the birthday card and sending it to Tarazi. A second complaint is filed against church leaders who allegedly recorded them without their permission at a meeting regarding Bary.

All parties are under a gag order and cannot comment on the case.

Related: Grounded Teen Petitions Against Her Punishment on Facebook

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