May 18, 2009

Buying Children...

Couples accused of buying children after trying to adopt Egyptian Children
Jonathan Spollen, Assistant Foreign Editor
May 15. 2009

Three Americans and an Egyptian accused of child trafficking are
expected in court today, and face up to seven years in prison if found
guilty, in a case that highlights Egypt’s lack of adoption laws and
which critics say could be politically motivated.

Their defence lawyers say the four, who are all Christian, were merely
trying to adopt the children and have fallen victim to the absence of
adoption legislation in Egypt, where the constitution is based on
Sharia, or Islamic law.
“Islamic law doesn’t allow for adoption, but Christianity does,” said
Neguib Guebrail, one of the defence lawyers. He said the lack of any
clear adoption laws for Christians had forced the community to resort
to forging documents.

Early last year, Suzan Haglouf, a US citizen of Egyptian origin, and
her Egyptian husband, Medhat Metyas, adopted a newborn from a Coptic
Christian orphanage.

The couple admit to forging documents to say Ms Haglouf was the
biological mother
because Egypt has no legal framework for adoption,
but they insist they did not “pay” for the child, making only a US$70
(Dh260) donation to the orphanage.
They were arrested in December when applying for visas to visit the
United States.

The US Embassy asked for a DNA sample to prove the child was theirs
and when Ms Haglouf declined they notified the Egyptian authorities.

The other couple, Iris Botros, 40, and her husband Louis Andros, 70,
from Durham, North Carolina, came to Egypt last autumn and “adopted”
newborn twins from the same orphanage.

They too forged documents to say Ms Botros, who is Egyptian, gave
birth to the twins and also donated $4,600 to the orphanage, their
lawyers say.

They were also arrested after applying for visas at the US Embassy
when Ms Botros admitted she was not the twins’ biological mother.

The prosecution accuses the two couples, as well as their accomplices,
of human trafficking, forging documents, buying children and trying to
smuggle them out of the country.

At least 13 people are on trial, including the two couples, at least
two doctors who wrote certificates for the three children, a nun who
ran the orphanage, an official there who helped with forging the
parental documents and an Egyptian banker who had put the couples in
touch with the orphanage, according to defence lawyers.
All have been in custody since their arrests in December and January.

The children, meanwhile, have been placed in a child welfare institute
not affiliated with the church.

The trial is the first of its kind in Egypt.

Mr Guebrail, the lawyer, claims the charges have been brought by the
government in response to a recent campaign within Egypt’s Christian
community to establish clear adoption laws for Christians.
He added that he was not optimistic about the outcome of the trial and
expected each of the defendants to receive sentences of between three
to five years in prison.

Adoption is known to occur within the Christian community, though the
government usually turns a blind eye.

According to defence lawyers, Ms Botros had also asked workers at the
orphanage if adopting a child was illegal and they had insisted it was.

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