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International custody case plays out in Monroe County Family Court

An Afghan woman who has made Rochester her home has been reunited with her four children in what is hopefully a happy ending to an international custody battle playing out in Monroe County Family Court.

Hassina Sultani, a permanent legal resident of the United States, was reunited with her three daughters and an infant son about 5 o’clock Thursday morning in Kabul, Afghanistan, where they were living with a relative of her husband, Ahmad Sultani. The mother and her children are expected to return to Rochester next week, said her lawyer, Charu NaRang Reid.

Charu NaRang Reid

Charu NaRang Reid

Monroe County Family Court Judge Dandrea L. Ruhlmann issued a temporary order of protection against Sultani’s husband and ordered him to produce the children by 2 p.m. Friday or she would issue an arrest warrant.

Ahmad Sultani lives in Kansas City, Mo., and wants the case to be heard there because it’s the last place the children lived in the United States.

Hassina Sultani and her husband were married in 2005 in Afghanistan. Ahmad worked as a translator for the U.S. military, which allowed him to emigrate to the United States.

The family, which included two daughters at the time, moved to Kansas City in 2009. A third daughter was born in Kansas City and the boy was born in Pakistan on Feb. 18, 2015. The girls are ages 9, 7 and 5.

In July 2014 Hassina Sultani, who cannot read or write, went to Pakistan with her children, expecting to return at the end of the summer, in time for the children to return to school in September.

Once in Pakistan, Ahmad took their passports and other identification and forced them to live with his family, “held hostage by Ahmad’s mother and sister.”

Sultani claims that in Pakistan in June 2015 Ahmad Sultani demanded a divorce, which his wife refused, so he punched and kicked her. The next day he hit her with a tennis racket, according to an affidavit filed in Family Court.

“Hassina was beaten, stalked, strangled with electric cord, menaced with a loaded rifle, cut with a knife, held hostage and controlled by Ahmad and his family,” according to the affidavit.

“Hassina witnessed her children be beat by Ahmad. Hassina fears for her life, and the safety and life of her children,” according to the affidavit.

“My husband has always beaten me, in Kansas City and also in Pakistan,” Hassina Sultani said in another affidavit.

She sold a ring to pay for a taxi to the United States Consulate, where she got medical attention and shelter and received documents to travel to the United States. Consulate personnel put her in touch with an agency that helps domestic violence victims. Eventually, she was put in touch with Saathi of Rochester, a non-profit agency that helps women of South Asian descent who are victims of domestic violence.

“For the record, my client contests all of the family offense allegations and we’ve established in court that all of the allegations took place in Pakistan and that’s the complainant’s own position,” said Lawrence Krieger, Ahmad Sultani’s lawyer.

Saathi contacted NaRang Reid. Saathi is paying the legal bills and helping Hassina with livings expenses.

In July 2015 NaRang Reid got the case into the New York court system under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

“The UCCJEA allows temporary emergency jurisdiction by any court if there is abuse and violence and kids are in danger,” NaRang Reid said.

Under the statute the father can file a custody case in what he believes is the home state of the children. Ahmad Sultani  filed a case in Missouri in October 2015, NaRang Reid said.