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Thursday, April 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Monkey Meat Needs Permit, Judge Says

(CN) - A federal judge in Brooklyn rejected a Liberian woman's claim that the U.S. government violated her religious freedom by prosecuting her for smuggling endangered African monkey meat into the United States.

U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie upheld the indictment of Mamie Manneh, who attempted to receive 12 boxes containing primate parts, or "bushmeat," concealed under layers of smoked fish and African dresses. Inspectors seized 65 individual pieces of bushmeat, including skulls, limbs and torsos.

The items were shipped from Manneh's cousin in Guinea to her home in Staten Island.

Manneh acknowledged that she never applied for a license to import meat from endangered African wildlife, but urged the government to drop the prosecution on the basis that bushmeat holds "religious significance" to her. Her lawyers argued that some African Christians eat sacred bushmeat for spiritual reasons.

Her motion for dismissal cited violations of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

But Judge Dearie concluded that Manneh's religious beliefs did not prevent her from applying for import permits or disclosing the true nature of her cargo. The judge also noted the "alarming level of calculation and dissembling displayed by defendant" during cross-examination.

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