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JUDGES TO CONFER ON RUNAWAY CONVERT

Which court will rule on a teen who fears her parents will kill her for becoming a Christian?

A judge in Florida said Monday he plans to talk to a judge in Ohio to determine where the case of Rifqa Bary belongs.

Bary, 17, is the religious runaway who in July fled here from her home near Columbus, Ohio, because she believes her Muslim family has to kill her due to her conversion to Christianity.

Authorities in both states say there's no credible threat against the girl. Her parents say they don't want to hurt her.

The girl's parents have filed a dependency petition in courts in Columbus to try to get her back or at least shift the case closer to their home - the first hearing in Ohio was Monday afternoon, too - and interstate agreements dictate that Orlando judge Daniel P. Dawson start a conversation with the judge on the case up there.

"The only question," Dawson said in court, "is how long should my emergency jurisdiction stay open.

"If this is a legitimate custody action in Ohio. I just need to talk to the judge up there."

Krista Bartholomew, Rifqa Bary's guardian ad litem, told the judge she had grave concerns that the dependency petition in Ohio would be dropped as soon as the girl was sent back. She suggested it could be a ploy.

"A ploy?" said Shayan Elahi, the Orlando attorney for Bary's father.

"Judge," Elahi said. "This is their daughter."

The judge set mediation between the girl and her parents with attorneys for Oct. 9. He set a pretrial hearing for Oct. 13. If the case is shifted back to Ohio, he said, those dates would be made moot.

The next hearing in Ohio is Oct. 27.

Roger Weeden, the Orlando attorney for the girl's mother, said in court the case needs to be sent back to Ohio, calling it the proper jurisdiction.

"That's all we've been trying to do from Day 1 in this case," he said.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (813) 957-0383.

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