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Ohio man indicted for allegedly threatening to burn down Planned Parenthood, feds say

Mohamed Farah Waes, 31, of Columbus, allegedly threatened to burn down a Planned Parenthood health clinic “and everyone inside of it” on July 5, 2022, according to the Justice Department.

A grand jury indicted an Ohio man on three felony counts after he allegedly threatened to burn down a local Planned Parenthood clinic last year, the Department of Justice announced following the man's arrest on Thursday.

Mohamed Farah Waes, 31, of Columbus, allegedly threatened to burn down a Planned Parenthood health clinic "and everyone inside of it" on July 5, 2022, according to the Justice Department. Waes made the alleged threats through a phone call, in order to intimidate "the employees of PPGOH from providing reproductive health services," according to the indictment.

Planned Parenthood operates 17 clinics throughout Ohio, which provide abortions, birth control, adoption referrals, cervical cancer screenings, gender-affirming care hormone therapy and HIV testing and counseling, among other services, according to its website.

The felonies charge Waes with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 law that makes it a federal crime to threaten anyone receiving or providing reproductive health services; making threatening statements through interstate communications; and threatening to destroy a building by means of fire and explosive, according to information released by the Justice Department.

It was not immediately clear why Waes is facing the interstate communication charge. A Department of Justice spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

Court records show Waes was arrested in Columbus, a little more than two weeks after the indictment was filed, and that he is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, which is responsible for detaining people arrested by federal agencies.

He is next due in court on Tuesday for his arraignment, court records show.

Waes faces up to a decade in prison on each count, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted, according to the Department of Justice.

Waes’ attorney, Eric Brehm, said in a statement provided to NBC News: “Mr. Waes maintains his innocence to these allegations and is seeking his immediate release. The facts contained in the indictment are very unusual. I hope that we can move this forward in the coming weeks. I will reserve further commentary until I have an opportunity to review the government’s file.” 

In a statement, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio said: “The threats against Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s patients and staff are egregious and cannot be tolerated, and are part of a greater constellation of attacks against abortion access. We remain committed to ensuring all Ohioans can safely access reproductive care no matter what.” 

Abortion remains legal in Ohio up to 22 weeks’ gestation while its 6-week abortion ban has been blocked by a judge. Following a push by abortion rights groups, voters in the state will decide in November whether to establish a constitutional right to abortion, the secretary of state certified Tuesday.

Waes’ arrest comes amid a rise in violence against abortion providers.

Authorities this week also announced the arrest of a third man accused of firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic in southern California last year. The two other defendants — including a Marine — were arrested last month and pled not guilty.

Those arrests come in addition to the dozen people who as of May 30 had been charged this year with Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act offenses, according to the Department of Justice. Eight of those defendants were charged with blocking reproductive health care clinics in Michigan, and four were charged with vandalism against Florida crisis pregnancy centers, which oppose abortions.

A report released in May by the National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion providers, found that violence against abortion providers and clinics increased last year compared to 2021, following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade — including four reported incidents of arson compared to two in 2021, and 92 reported incidents of stalking compared to 28 in 2021.