Florida Investigation Finds No Credible Threat to Teen Christian Convert

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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Rifqa Bary, a Christian convert whose parents are Muslim immigrants from Sri Lanka, says she fears for her life.

Rifqa Bary, a Christian convert whose parents are Muslim immigrants from Sri Lanka, says she fears for her life.

Florida authorities' investigation into a teenager's claims that her life is in danger for converting from Islam to Christianity found no credible threats to 17-year-old Rifqa Bary, according to a newly unsealed report.

The 7-page summary of the probe into the Bary case by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was unsealed on Monday.

" . . . FDLE's inquiry to date has failed to reveal any evidence of a conspiracy to commit, solicitation to commit, attempt or other efforts to commit any such action or other violence against her," the report said.

The high school student is in foster care in Orlando after fleeing to Florida from her home in Ohio because, she said, she feared being killed by her family for switching religions.

Rifqa ran away from her parents' house in suburban Columbus in July after her parents, Sri Lankan immigrants Mohamed and Aysha Bary, learned she had been baptized without telling them.

She has said she is afraid of becoming the victim of an "honor killing" if she stays with her father and mother. Her parents have said they have no intention of harming their daughter.

The girl fled to the home of the Rev. Blake Lorenz, pastor of the Orlando-based Global Revolution Church — whom she befriended on Facebook. Her father says he believes Rifqa has been brainwashed by fundamentalist Christians.

The latest findings don't negate the case or mean that Rifqa is going home. A judge still is deciding whether to return the girl to Ohio. Another hearing is set for Sept. 29.

The report synopsis includes interviews with Bary's father, who she said threatened her; officials from her school in Ohio and the person who baptized her and helped her travel to Florida, Brian Williams.

Members of the Islamic community in Columbus and the mosque the Bary family sometimes attends were not part of the investigation — only local state and federal officials in both Ohio and in Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Rifqa's attorney previously characterized that mosque as a hotbed for terrorists. The FDLE report said investigating a person or organization without "specific identifiable criminal predicate" would have been inappropriate, the St. Petersburg Times reported.
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Among Rifqa's allegations investigated were her claim that her father punched her while they were in the car because she had been embarrassed to wear a hijab, or Muslim headscarf. Her father says that never happened.

The FDLE said it didn't investigate that or other specific incidents involving claims of physical or sexual abuse because they would have happened in Ohio, outside their jurisdiction, according to WDBO. Ohio authorities told those in Florida they had no reports of abuse.

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