EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) — Two Georgia parents accused of child cruelty are claiming to be part of an extremist anti-government group that believes individuals can’t be governed by state or federal authorities.
Thirty-year-old Hassan Sahih Bey and 25-year-old Tinka El were arrested on April 6 after a deputy responded to the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said.
After speaking with someone from the Department of Family and Children’s Services, the deputy learned one of the children had to be put on a respirator and had been diagnosed with rickets disease, a rare disease that can cause problems for children’s bone development. A lack of vitamin D or calcium is the most common cause of rickets. The child also had bone malformation due to malnutrition.
El told police she had two other children who were at home with their father, Bey.
Once Bey arrived at the hospital, law enforcement learned the two other children, who are 1 year and 1 week old, also needed to be hospitalized. The 1-year-old was also diagnosed with rickets, and the 1-week-old was found to be severely malnourished.
Both suspects claim to be members of the Moorish Sovereign Citizens Group. Members call themselves Moors and often incorporate the words “bey” and “el” into their names.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Moorish Sovereign Citizens Group came about in the 1990s as an offshoot of the anti-government movement. Moors believe they have independence and sovereignty as individuals and, therefore, are immune to governance by authorities.
“Moorish sovereigns espouse an interpretation of sovereign doctrine that African Americans constitute an elite class within American society with special rights and privileges that convey on them a sovereign immunity placing them beyond federal and state authority,” the Southern Poverty Law Center writes of the extremist group.
Members of the group may use this logic to avoid paying taxes, registering cars, or even defrauding banks. In some cases, Moorish sovereign citizens have engaged in violence with law enforcement.
While the movement is still quite small, it’s seen a resurgence since 2009, according to the Anti-Defamation League, with their ideas spreading on social media.
Bey and El were both charged with three counts of child cruelty and one charge of giving false information to law enforcement.
Bond has been denied for both defendants.