Victim testifies in mutilation case

LAWRENCEVILLE - A 7-year-old girl believed to be the victim of genital mutilation at the hands of her father took the stand Wednesday morning as a witness for the prosecution.

The victim answered yes to the question of whether her father, Khalid Adem, cut her genitals in 2001 when she was 2 years old, as asked by Assistant District Attorney Marty First.

Adem, a native of Ethiopia, is being tried on charges of aggravated battery and cruelty to children for allegedly using a pair of scissors to mutilate his daughter's genitalia, an act known as a female circumcision.

Adem is facing up to 40 years for both charges.

The circumcision is an African tradition used to limit sexuality and promote virginity in females. Adem is believed to have performed the procedure between September and October 2001.

Adem denies the allegations, and believes ex-wife Fortunate Adem or someone associated with her is responsible for the mutilation, according to defense attorney W. Mark Hill.

Adem also alleges that the accusations were brought up during a custody battle.

Hill asked the victim a series of questions during cross examination, which included questions like what did Santa Claus bring her and what did she get for her birthday that year and in the two years that followed.

The victim could not remember.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said evidence will show that there were two people involved.

"We believe our evidence will show the father as one, but we don't know who the other one is," Porter said.

Another witness for the prosecution on Wednesday was Fortunate Adem, who said her ex-husband had mentioned the procedure in the past that it was a custom in Ethiopia.

Fortunate Adem said in court that she told Adem that she did not want the procedure performed on their daughter.

Hill spent the better part of cross examination going over the former couple's timeline, which included their courting period, their on-and-off marriage, the birth of their daughter and the time before and after the discovery of the scars on their daughter's genitals by a doctor.

When drilled by Hill if Fortunate Adem was involved in the procedure, Fortunate Adem answered no.

Sometime in early 2003, Fortunate Adem's family accused Adem of performing the procedure at a family get-together, said Hill, which was confirmed by Fortunate Adem during cross examination.

"My family asked him if he knew that (she) had been circumcised," Fortunate Adem said. "(Adem) said, 'No, I didn't do it.' "

Fortunate Adem later filed a restraining order against Adem around February of 2003, her second against Adem in three years, Hill said.

Porter said the victim's testimony was important on Wednesday.

"Physical evidence that (the procedure) was done is clear, but the evidence that he did it is circumstantial, and the jury is going to have to believe (the victim) beyond a reasonable doubt," Porter said.

The case is expected to continue through the week and possibly into next week, Porter said.

While this isn't the first time this type of mutilation has happened on U.S. soil, it is "clearly the first prosecuted case," Porter said.

Porter also said that when this case first came into the spotlight, physicians nationwide contacted the DA's office claiming they had seen similar situation with young girls, especially among those of Ethiopian descent.