Couple jailed abroad for child trafficking back home
DURHAM (WTVD) -- A Durham couple is trying to rebuild their life in the United States after serving time in Egypt for an adoption that went wrong.
Iris Botros and Louis Andros were a happily, married couple, established at home and in business, when they felt something was missing.
"I thought it was time to settle and realize our dreams," said Botros.
The couple wanted to start a family but was unable to have children of their own.
In 2008, Botros, then 40-years-old, and Andros, then 70-years-old, both Christian, said they went to Iris's native Egypt to adopt twins.
"Then we got into the big problem," said Andros.
Islamic law forbids adoption, and that is the law applied to Muslims in Egypt. The religion emphasizes maintaining clear bloodlines to ensure lines of patrimony and inheritance. At most, Muslims can take a child into long-term foster care, but such a situation does not allow the child to inherit from the foster parents.
On the advice of Egyptian friends, the couple contacted a Coptic Christian orphanage in Cairo that was caring for two newborn orphans.
When Botros and Andros tried to acquire the children's passports to bring them to the states, the U.S. Embassy grew suspicious and reported them to Egyptian authorities.
Egyptian officials accused them of violating Islamic law on adoption.
"We went through orphanage," said Botros. "The orphanage had too many babies. It's not like we hired somebody to kidnap somebody."
They were charged with trafficking children illegally by using fake birth certificates. The couple claimed the orphanage gave them forged birth certificates in exchange for a $4,600 donation.
A first of its kind in Egypt, the couple was tried for participating in an illegal adoption in a foreign country.
They pleaded not guilty but were convicted of the child trafficking charges and jailed for more than two years.
"The jail conditions at the police station is the worst, of the worst of the worst that you ever were to know," said Andros.
Botros said guardsmen could harass those jailed at any time.
"They come and beat you up," she said. "If you're up to sexual conduct, he's happy to do it under the stairs right there."
It was in 2009 that Eyewitness News aired images of Botros and Andros being held in a cage in Egypt.
In 2011, the couple was released from prison after serving their time.
The couple then found it difficult to leave the country together. They each had to pay a $20,000 fine before they could depart.
Botros' family sold the property she had inherited from her father and raised enough money for only one of them to return. However, the couple insisted on returning to the United States together.
Eventually, enough money was raised, and both of them recently returned stateside.
Before the adoption complication, they owned two restaurants and a house in Durham. During the ordeal, the couple was forced to close both restaurants and said they are now on the verge of losing their home.
However, Andros and his wife said they are still thankful to be back.
Botros hopes their story will serve as a caution to those considering adopting abroad.
"Before you go outside and try to adopt, you need to really check what you're doing," she said. "Once you are out of the states there is no protection whatsoever.
Botros is now faced with immigration problems. Although Andros is a U.S. citizen, Botros was living in the United States on a green card which expired while she was in Egypt.