Two U.S. Women Arrested, Charged With Child Trafficking In Egypt

Windsor Genova

March 24, 2009 / ANH

Cairo, Egypt (AHN) - Two American women are in jail in Egypt after being charged with human trafficking because they used spurious birth certificates of Egyptian children they adopted in applying for their U.S. visas.

Suzanne Hagelof, who lives in Egypt with her husband, and Iris Botros, a former citizen of Egypt and now a resident of North Carolina, are detained in the overcrowded Tora prison in Cairo and will be tried starting May 16. Both are facing 10 years in prison if convicted of human trafficking.

Six other people, including two doctors and a nun who ran a local orphanage, are being tried together with the two Americans for forging documents to illegally adopt Egyptian children and smuggled them out of the country.

All the accused were led to a local court Saturday in handcuffs and placed inside a cage in the courtroom. Hagelof and Botros' husbands were present in the trial.

Hagelof adopted a child from an orphanage run by a Coptic Christian Church last year. Botros adopted twins from another orphanage run by the same religious organization seven months later and donated $4,600 to the church.

Both planned to take their adoptive children to the U.S. However, staff in the U.S. embassy in Cairo alerted local authorities because the adoptive parents presented fake birth certificates of the children in getting visas for the latter.


Egypt tries US adoption bid pair


A US couple, Iris Botros and Louis Andros, have gone on trial in Egypt charged with child trafficking after trying to adopt newborn twins.

The couple, who own a Greek restaurant in North Carolina, tried for years to have a child and attempted to adopt in the US where they married 15 years ago.

But the age of Mr Andros, 70, and other factors stood in their way.

A Cairo orphanage is alleged to have given them the twins, forging papers showing Iris Botros to be the mother.

The couple took the babies, named Victoria and Alexander, from the Coptic Christian orphanage back to a temporary home in Cairo while they tried to get American passports for them.

But a US Embassy employee became suspicious and, faced with a DNA test, Ms Botros finally admitted she was not the biological mother.

The couple were then turned over to Egyptian police and face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Orphanage 'donation'

In the tangle of Egypt's complicated legal system even lawyers are unsure whether adoption in this country is legal or not, the BBC's Christian Fraser reports from Cairo.

Islamic law forbids it but the law is less clear when it comes to the Coptic Christian minority.

Adoptions within the Christian community do take place but they usually involves bribes and forgeries.

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

In turn, the couple donated $4,500 to the orphanage.

Friends of the couple say they were not aware they were doing anything wrong.

They had reportedly asked if the process was legal and were assured that it was.

The authorities have been known to turn a blind eye to this in the past but this case involving an American couple is perhaps being used to show the government is tough on child trafficking, our correspondent says.

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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