Famed constitutional law scholar and attorney Alan Dershowitz has joined the defense team in the nation's first female genital mutilation case in federal court.

The move adds legal firepower to a defense that appears to be focused on First Amendment issues and religious freedom. Federal prosecutors allege two 7-year-old girls who were brought to Metro Detroit earlier this year suffered illegal genital mutilation but defense lawyers say the girls underwent a benign religious procedure.

Dershowitz and prominent Birmingham defense attorney Mayer Morganroth were hired about three weeks ago by the Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an international religious organization overseeing a small sect of Shia Muslim mosques around the world.

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