Runaway's parents file criminal complaint against Florida pastors

The Orlando Sentinel/September 22, 2009

Orlando, Florida - The legal battle over teen runaway Fathima Rifqa Bary of Columbus will continue in a Franklin County courtroom after an Orlando hearing yesterday brought more questions than resolutions.

Orange County, Fla., Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson did nothing to change the custody of the 17-year-old, who is living with a foster family near Orlando, and said he planned to talk to the Franklin County judge handling the case to find out whether there is a legitimate custody action in Ohio.

If so, Dawson would need to determine whether Florida's emergency jurisdiction should remain -- and for how long.

Yesterday, Rifqa's father stepped up a strategy to bring his daughter back to Columbus. Mohamed Bary filed a criminal complaint against the Orlando pastors who helped shelter Rifqa for more than two weeks before the state intervened.

Lawyer Shayan Elahi told the Orange County court that Rifqa's parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, filed a complaint about Blake and Beverly Lorenz with law-enforcement officials.

"They violated the law because they were hiding my child," Mohamed Bary said.

A letter sent to Orlando police by Mohamed Bary claimed Rifqa was "indoctrinated and coerced" by representatives of Global Revolution Church and "was hidden" by the Lorenzes. Orlando police said they are not investigating.

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman confirmed that the agency received a complaint against the Lorenzes, but she could not comment further.

In recent weeks, the Barys launched a new strategy to get their daughter back to their Northeast Side home and placed in Ohio's foster-care system. Mohamed Bary's filing, asking a judge to declare his daughter incorrigible for repeatedly being disobedient, is one case in Ohio.

The Barys also filed a dependency petition against themselves in juvenile court in Columbus, Elahi said. Both cases are to be considered Oct. 27.

Rifqa made national headlines when she ran away from her parents' Northeast Side home and sought shelter with the Lorenzes in July. The teen said she feared that her Muslim family would harm or kill her because of her conversion to Christianity.

Rifqa's family has denied any wrongdoing, and investigators in Ohio and Florida have found no evidence supporting Rifqa's claims.

Dispatch reporter Meredith Heagney contributed to this story.

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