Two American couples who say they were trying to adopt children in Egypt were convicted of human trafficking and sentenced to two years in prison Thursday in a case that highlighted the murky process for adopting in this predominantly Muslim country.
Islamic law observed in Egypt bans Muslims from adopting children, in the name of maintaining clear bloodlines to ensure lines of patrimony and inheritance.
However, adoptions within the minority Christian community in Egypt do take place - including by Egyptian Christians living abroad. But experts say they face enormous obstacles from authorities, so many couples and those arranging adoptions resort to forging documents and bribes.
The case was first time such an adoption case has been tried in Egypt, and lawyers of the two couples have said Egypt was prosecuting because of US pressure on the country to crack down on human trafficking. The couples were discovered when the US Embassy in Cairo reported to authorities that it was suspicious of them after they tried to get their adopted children out of Egypt.