A man accused of holding his wife captive for five months inside a Modesto home pleaded not guilty to charges of false imprisonment and trying to prevent a victim from reporting a crime.
With help from a court-appointed Farsi interpreter, defendant Masehullah, 26, also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of battery on his spouse. He initially was identified in court and jail records as “Fnu Masehullah,” but Thursday he told the judge that he has only one name – Masehullah.
Authorities believe Mohammad Idrees, Masehullah’s brother, assisted in holding the woman captive, according to a filed criminal complaint. Idrees is charged with felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery on his brother’s wife.
Idrees, 28, is expected to return to court March 3 for his arraignment hearing. He and his brother remain free on bail.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff scheduled a preliminary hearing March 11 for Masehullah, when the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence for Masehullah to stand trial.
The criminal complaint indicates Masehullah’s wife was held captive Sept. 1 through Feb. 2, when Modesto police found her involved in a dispute with her brother-in-law at a north Modesto shopping center.
The officers were directed to the couple’s home, where authorities say they found a belt used to tie up the woman. Authorities say the woman was fed once a day while held captive.
Masehullah’s wife attended the Thursday morning hearing, sitting near her brother-in-law. Her husband sat in the audience on the other side of the courtroom aisle before his arraignment started.
In his first court appearance last week, Masehullah was ordered by Judge David Vanderwall to stay away from the alleged victim.
Thursday, Zeff ordered the defendant’s wife to return to his courtroom March 11 to possibly testify in her husband’s preliminary hearing. She asked to speak in court with the help of her husband’s interpreter, but the judge said he was not going to receive any statements from her during the arraignment hearing.
In the meantime, Zeff suggested that she provide her statements to prosecutors or her husband’s defense attorney. She then tried to approach the attorneys’ table, apparently to address the court, but the bailiff and the judge told her to return to her seat.
Masehullah and his wife appear to be from Afghanistan and are part of an arranged marriage, authorities say.
Zeff scheduled Masehullah to return to court March 7 for a pretrial hearing.