Adoption trial for local couple begins in Egypt

May 14, 2009 3:00:24 PM PDT
A local couple is on trial for participating in an illegal adoption in a foreign country.The trial for a Durham couple that owns a Greek restaurant began today in Egypt. Iris Botros, 40, and 70-year-old Louis Andros were jailed in March after trying to adopt twin orphan babies.

On the advice of Egyptian friends, the couple went to Cairo last fall and were put in touch with a Coptic Christian orphanage that was caring for two newborn orphans.

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.

After Botros and Andron were arrested in March, family friends spoke to Eyewitness News. They said the couple sought the help of an Egyptian church after they couldn't have children of their own. According to the friends, Andros and Botros did not know adoption is illegal in Egypt.

The attorney who is handling the couple's case said adoption is organized in Egypt through churches. According to the attorney, the government knows about adoptions in the country but turns its head.

When Botros and Andron tried to bring the children home to the states, the US Embassy reported them to Egyptian authorities and charged them with trafficking children illegally and using fake birth certificates.

According to the couples' attorney, the orphanage gave the couple forged birth certificates in exchange for a $4,600 donation to the orphanage.

The trial is the first of its kind in Egypt.

The law concerning adoption is far less clear concerning Egypt's Christian minority, to which Botros belongs. Adoptions within the Christian community -- including by Egyptian Christians living abroad -- do take place, usually involving a donation to a Christian orphanage. Proponents say this type of adoption is not explicitly banned, but still faces monumental barriers.

The two could face up to seven years in prison if convicted. In their first court session in March, Botros and Andros appeared in a metal cage in the courtroom -- as defendants in Egyptian courts are always held during hearings -- and pleaded not guilty. They are to appear for a second session on Saturday.

Several doctors and orphanage administrators have also been charged.


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