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Judge Dismisses Child Abuse Charges Against 3 Jihad Cult Camp Suspects

Defendants Hujrah Wahhaj, left, and Siraj Wahhaj talk during a break in court hearings, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, in Taos, N.M. The Wahhajs were among several people arrested after authorities raided a property and found 11 children living on a squalid compound on the outskirts of tiny Amalia, N.M., a …
Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, Pool; Taos County Sheriff's Office
JOSHUA CAPLAN

Judge Emilio Chavez on Wednesday dismissed child abuse charges against three defendants found inside a desert compound in New Mexico.

The Taos County District Judge ruled against charging Subhannah Wahhaj, Hujrah Wahhaj, and Lucas Morten because the defendants failed to receive a preliminary hearing within the 10-day time period required by state law.

Earlier this month, New Mexican law enforcement officials found child remains at the squalid compound after eleven emaciated children were rescued from the heavily-armed property. The initial discovery occurred after local police began searching for 4-year-old boy reported missing by his mother.

“The sheriff’s office arrested the boy’s father, 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj, and four other adults also found at the Amalia, N.M., compound, including Lucas Morten, Jany Leveille, and Siraj Wahhaj’s sisters, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj. Officials accused the adults of abuse. The women are believed to be the mothers of the children,” United Press International reports.

In a statement to CNN, Hakima Ramzi, the mother of Abdul-Ghani, accused Siraj Wahhaj of kidnapping the young boy in November 2017 and claimed she had not been in contact with her son for 9 months. “My husband said he was taking Abdul-Ghani to the park, and didn’t come back. That was in November 2017. When I would ask him where he was, he said he was on his way, he was coming soon, he was just keeping him for the night. But I haven’t seen him since then,” Ramzi alleged to the news network.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe ordered 8 Response Team members, along with the State OSI Unit, to execute a search warrant on the compound as part of an investigation involving the Sheriff’s Office. According to reports, the FBI put the New Mexico compound under surveillance in recent months that included photographs of the compound and interviews.

“The message sent to a third party simply said in part ‘we are starving and need food and water,’” said the sheriff. “I absolutely knew that we couldn’t wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible.”

Law enforcement found Wahhaj armed with four pistols, one AR15 rifle and numerous loaded 30-round magazines. “Many more rounds of ammo were found in the makeshift compound that consists of a small travel trailer buried in the ground covered by plastic with no water, plumbing, or electricity,” Hogrefe told reporters.

Police arrested Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahha as officers searched the property. Two women were detained and later released “pending further investigation,” the Taos County Sheriff’s Office said.

Judge Chavez, who said the decision to dismiss charges against the defendants was vexing, will file an official order at 4:00 p.m. local time.

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