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Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 16:17 UK

Egypt jails US 'adoption' couples

By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Cairo

Accused at the court in Cairo 17.9.09
The couples say they did not know they were doing wrong

Two US couples have been jailed in Egypt for two years for trying to illegally adopt children.

Iris Botros and her husband Louis Andros had been offered orphaned twins by a Coptic Christian church in Cairo.

When they applied to take the children out of the country they were arrested for child trafficking.

A second couple, Suzan Hagoulf and her husband Medhat Metyas, were also sentenced along with several officials from the orphanage.

The case has laid bare the tangle of Egypt's complicated adoption system based on Islamic law.

In Egypt the adopting couple must be Egyptian, the name of the child must not be changed and the children should not be removed from the country.

But customs are less clear when it comes to the Coptic minority.

In this case the court heard that a church orphanage in Cairo had supplied forged documents that Iris Botros had given birth to twins.

Cash donation

The couple had donated $4,500 (£2,700) to the orphanage.

When they tried to get passports for the babies, whom they renamed Victoria and Alexander, embassy officials became suspicious.

Faced with a DNA test, Botros, of joint US and Egyptian nationality, admitted she wasn't the biological mother.

Suzan Hagoulf, who also has joint nationality, and her Egyptian husband Medhat Metyas had adopted children from the same orphanage more than a year ago.

Three workers from the orphanage, including a nun, were all jailed for five years.

The couples' relatives say they were not aware they were doing anything wrong and that they had reportedly asked if the process was legal and had been assured that it was.

In the past, authorities have been known to turn a blind eye to this kind of practice but this case is perhaps being used to show the government is tough on child trafficking.

Certainly it has sparked a wider debate, with one MP calling for Egypt to reconsider the laws pertaining to orphans and adoption.



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