Five Seattle-area immigrants from Afghanistan enslaved a teenage girl they brought to the United States, with some forcing her to do chores and one — her 37-year-old husband — beating and sexually assaulting her, according to a federal indictment unsealed this week.
The girl is from an impoverished single-parent home in Afghanistan, and she was informally adopted by another family there that forced her to marry at age 13 in 2005, Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said Thursday. The girl's husband is Mohammad Atahee, a friend of the adoptive family; U.S. officials don't recognize the marriage.
Atahee and three of the family's members were already living in the south Seattle suburbs when the girl's adoptive mother, Nasima Yousuf, 70, brought her to the United States in 2006, as part of what prosecutors say was a plot to enslave her. Yousuf's husband, Mohammad, 84, had filed an immigration petition to bring the girl to the United States claiming his wife was her biological mother.
Once in the country, the indictment said, the girl, identified only as JV1, was forced to live with Atahee, who beat her and sexually assaulted her. She was forced to spend at least three days a week at the Auburn home of Maruf Yousufi, 42, and his wife, Nahid, 29 — caring for their children, doing laundry, cooking and cleaning. Maruf Yousufi is Mohammad Yousuf's son.
The girl escaped after some good Samaritans helped her report Atahee to the police in January 2008 for sexual assault, prosecutors said. Since then, she's been at a safe house, but they won't say where.
She also called police in August 2006 to report her case, but Nahid Yousufi threatened her and persuaded her to recant the allegations, the indictment said.
All five defendants are charged in U.S. District Court with one count of conspiracy to engage in forced labor, and the Yousufs also face a visa fraud charge for allegedly lying on immigration applications.
Atahee and Mohammad Yousuf pleaded not guilty, while the others did not enter pleas during their initial court appearances Wednesday. Atahee and the Yousufis were detained pending further hearings, while the Yousufs were released pending trial, set for Dec. 23.
Several of their lawyers did not return calls Thursday or said they could not comment. Ralph Hurvitz, who represents Mohammad Yousuf, said he didn't know anything about the case beyond what the indictment said, and that his client doesn't speak English.
All the defendants have legal status in the United States, Langlie said. The girl, however, does not, because of the Yousufs' alleged lies on immigration applications. She could stay in the country by obtaining a visa for victims of human trafficking.