Egyptian boy, 3½, gets life in prison
• An Egyptian military court set off an uproar by convicting a boy, now 3 ½ , of killing three people, carrying guns and firebombs, blocking a road with burning tires, and trying to damage government buildings — sentencing him to life in prison.
The verdict came l ast week in the trial of 107 people suspected of belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The charges stemmed from the protests, street clashes and police crackdowns after the military overthrew the elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013.
Now, the military says the conviction of Ahmed Mansour Qorani Sharara was a case of mistaken identity. Authorities had meant to try a 16- year- old student with the same name. The teenager is on the run, the military added in a post on its official Facebook page.
But that, too, may be a mistake: Before the military statement, a police spokesman, Abu Bakr Abdel-Karim, said the wanted culprit was the toddler’s uncle, a 51-yearold who has a similar name.
The police spokesman said the reason for the mixup remained unknown.
“I don’t know why there is a contradiction between the statements,” he said.
A military spokesman refused to comment.
The case shed a stark light on the often dysfunctional Egyptian judiciary, which since 2013 has sentenced hundreds of people to death or to life in prison in mass trials on what human rights advocacy groups have called trumpedup charges. Ahmed’s conviction was for crimes allegedly committed by Morsi supporters in January 2014.
The army’s announcements about the case of mistaken identity have not included any apology for the distress caused to the child’s family, which was evident when the boy and his father appeared on one of Egypt’s most-watched talk shows.
“I swear I don’t want to upset anyone,” Mansour Qorani Sharara said through sobs as he held his son and pleaded for help. “They told me they will take my child. No one will take my child.”
The show’s host, Wael elIbrashy, favoured Morsi’s ouster and is a prominent supporter of the government of President Abdel- Fattah el-Sissi. But he said despondently, “I don’t know how people are meant to believe in justice after they see this.”
Sharara’s wife, Hemat, called in to the show to say police came to the family home looking for her husb a nd a nd c hi l d whil e Sharara was on t he air. Sharara had already spent four months in prison because the authorities mistook him for his son.
Egypt maintains its judiciary is independent, and the government routinely rejects all criticism of its judges or their verdicts. Even so, human rights groups say Egyptian judges comply with the government’s wishes.
Insulting the judiciary is a crime in Egypt, and many people have been convicted of the charge in recent years.