Egyp­tian boy, 3½, gets life in prison

National Post (Latest Edition) - - WORLD - Nour Youssef The New York Times

• 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.

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