Judge Urges Mediation in 'Honor Killing' Custody Case

Teen girl's dad, Mohamed Bary, says Christians coaching daughter.

ByABC News via logo
August 11, 2009, 1:29 PM

Sept. 3, 2009— -- A Florida judge declined today to decide whether a 17-year-old girl should be sent home to her Muslim parents in Ohio or allowed to stay in Florida with a couple of Christian pastors.

Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson instead urged the lawyers, the girl, her parents and the pastors to settle the custody issue in mediation.

In the meantime, Fathima Rifqa Bary was ordered to remain under the jurisdiction of Florida's Department of Children and Families.

The teenager, who goes by the name of Rifqa, has told Florida authorities that she fled her home in July because she had secretly converted to Christianity and that her father was bound by his Muslim faith kill her for leaving Islam.

"They have to kill me because I'm a Christian. It's an honor [killing]," she tearfully toldABC Orlando affiliate WFTV last month.

She was discovered living with Christian pastor, Blake Lorenz, and his wife, Beverly, who Rifqa said she met online.

Dawson sealed a report about the girl today, just hours before the hearing. The report on Rifqa Bary was carried out by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Also before today's hearing, Rifqa's father spoke out for the first time on national television to "Good Morning America," saying his daughter's claims are completely "not true" and that she is being manipulated by people in the Christian community.

"I don't believe my daughter would say this," Rifqa's father, Mohamed Bary, told "GMA." "She's completely being coached -- I mean trained, influenced by these people. It's so sad."

The Barys blame the girl's actions on the Lorenzes and believe the Lorenzes coaxed her into claiming the honor killing, though they admit they would prefer if their daughter was Muslim.

"She is free to practice whatever she believes in," Mohamed Rifqa said. "No problem. She can practice in my house. I have no problem.

"We love her. It's our daughter. She being a Christian doesn't mean she's not my daughter," he said.

An attorney for the Lorenzes had no comment on allegations that they're coaching the 17-year-old.

The teen and her lawyer raised the stakes for the hearing in documents filed this week, accusing her family of physical and sexual abuse and claiming that they are involved with an Islamic extremist organization.

John Stemberger, Bary's lawyer, told ABCNews.com the teen was sexually and physically abused by her relatives.

Rifqa "was sexually abused by her uncle and the mother was aware and never reported it," Stemberger said. "There was physical abuse by the father. He smacked her with great force, enough to slam her across the room.

"One time he asked her to wear the Islamic headdress, and she basically scooted down in the car so she couldn't be seen because she was embarrassed by it and he punched her with full force using his fist across the side of her face," Stemberger said.

Craig McCarthy, the lawyer representing Bary's parents, Mohamed and Aysha, did not return phone calls from ABC News seeking comment, but the parents have denied ever mistreating or threatening Bary.

The documents filed Monday also claim that the Noor Center, the mosque where Bary's parents are "devoted members and followers," has ties to terrorist groups.

The documents describe the Noor Center as "one of the primary sources of Islamic extremism in central Ohio."