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Egypt sentences 4yo to life in prison for murder

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Posted at 12:39 PM, Feb 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-19 13:06:00-05

An Egyptian military court has ruled a 4-year-old boy must serve life in prison for a murder committed when the child was only two years old. 

The Independent reported Friday morning a sweeping judicial action that comes amid years of strife between the government and protestors. At time of publishing, there were an estimated 40,000 "opposition supporters" behind bars in Egypt, all charged with dissent against the military dictatorship that couped the elected government back in 2013.

The 4-year-old boy, Ahmed Mansour Karmi, was one of 116 defendants charged and sentenced to life in prison. The alleged crimes for all 116 people stem from a violent, early-2014 clash between protestors and government police in an area just over 40 miles south of Cairo.

Ahmed was born in September of 2012. 

CHARGES | The court brought a long list of charges against the young boy

  • 4 counts of murder
  • 8 counts of attempted murder
  • Vandalizing property belonging to Egyptian officials
  • Threatening soldiers and police officers
  • Damaging vehicles belonging to security forces

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Regardless of the innocence or culpability of the other 115 in the case, Ahmed may have been mistakenly placed on the list of the accused. Faisal a-Sayd, an Egyptian defense attorney, suggested the judge may not have properly reviewed the case -- if he reviewed it at all. It's possible Ahmed may have a similar name to an older relative, but sentencing took place with the boy still on the list.

"The child Ahmed Mansour Karni's birth certificate was presented after state security forces added his name to the list of accused, but then the case was transferred to the military court and the child was sentenced in absentia in an ensuing court hearing," Faisal a-Sayd told the Jerusalem Post. "This proves that the judge did not read the case."

Another source told the Jerusalem Post the error may have occurred because the initial court "did not transfer the material" when the case moved to military court. 

CALL TO REASON

Egyptian lawyer Mohammed Abu Hurira wrote out a response to the ruling, condemning not just this injustice, but the general descent of justice in Egypt:

"On the eve of injustice and madness in Egypt, a four-year-old child was sentenced to life imprisonment. He is accused of disturbance, damage to property and murder. The Egyptian scales of justice are not reversible. There is no justice in Egypt. No reason. Logic committed suicide a while ago. Egypt went crazy. Egypt is ruled by a bunch of lunatics."

Hurira was not alone is his disappointment and anger. Amid a slew of social media criticism, many called the decision "blind", "corrupt" and a mockery of justice.

A RECENT HISTORY OF MISHAPS

The Egyptian courts have seen several similar blemishes just within the past few years. This is partly due to an increased number of mass hearings, in which often hundreds of people face their alleged crimes at the same time. 

  • Most notably, the formerly-elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi received a death sentence after being deposed in 2013, despite heavy criticism from around the world.
  • Two Muslim Brotherhood supporters (among nearly 200 sentenced to death in 2015) had the charges against them dropped when the court discovered the two were both already dead. 
  • Also in 2015, an Egyptian man received a stiff 15-year sentence for shooting a police officer, even after the court learned he was blind. 

These mass hearings, trials and sentencings have resulted in several hundred executions and thousands of arrests -- mostly affecting members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Human rights activist groups have long insisted that these sorts of motions are "systematically repressing opponents" of the current government.

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood movement has insisted their mission is one of civility and peaceful activism.

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