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Prosecutors: Boy Died in Exorcism-Like Ritual at Compound

Defense lawyer describes it as 'faith healing'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2018 10:50 AM CDT
Defendants, from left, Jany Leveille, Lucas Morton, Siraj Wahhaj and Subbannah Wahhaj enter district court in Taos, NM., on Monday.   (Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, Pool)
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(Newser) – A 3-year-old boy whose remains were found at a New Mexico compound where children were allegedly trained to conduct school shootings died during an exorcism-like ritual, prosecutors say. Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, allegedly taken from his Georgia home late last year, suffered from seizures, and his father believed he was possessed by the devil, per court papers cited by the BBC. Some of the 11 hungry children found at the squalid compound during an early August raid described a days-long ritual "intended to cast out demonic spirits," which involved Siraj Wahhaj putting his hand on his son's head as he recited Koran verses, per the BBC and CNN. Per the FBI, Wahhaj's partner, Jany Leveille, was believed by the family to be able to communicate with God, and the family thought the boy would return "as Jesus" and ID targets for violent attacks, including law enforcement, per Reuters.

Wahhaj and Leveille are among five related adults facing child abuse charges. All but Wahhaj, who has a warrant against him for child abduction in Georgia, have been granted release on bail. Though authorities admitted finding weapons and ammunition in a vehicle carrying Wahhaj, Leveille, and seven children through Alabama in December—more weapons were found at the compound—State District Judge Sarah Backus on Monday said prosecutors failed to show the group posed a threat to the community. "The state alleges that there was a big plan afoot, but the state hasn't shown to my satisfaction, in clear and convincing evidence, what that plan was," she said. A defense lawyer added his clients were being unfairly treated as black Muslims. "If these people were white and Christian, nobody would bat an eye over the idea of faith healing," he said. (Read more New Mexico stories.)

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