updated 1/3/2009 6:40:11 PM ET 2009-01-03T23:40:11

A federal judge in Brooklyn has rejected a Liberian woman's argument that she had religious reasons for smuggling endangered monkey meat into the United States.

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U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie ruled Wednesday that Mamie Manneh's faith didn't preclude her from applying for permits to import exotic food or explain why she misled officials.

Manneh was charged with smuggling the meat three years ago after customs agents seized a shipment of primate parts as it passed through Kennedy Airport on the way to her home in New York.

Manneh's lawyers claimed a First Amendment right, arguing that some Liberian Christians eat monkey meat for spiritual reasons.

Her lawyer didn't respond to phone messages Saturday.

She faces up to five years in prison and deportation if convicted.

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