WikiLeaks brings to light suspected baby trafficking
from Egypt to Canada
Globe and Mail, Published Friday, Feb.
The RCMP and Canadian consular officials in Cairo
have been investigating up to a dozen cases where couples are suspected of
having trafficked babies from Egypt into Canada, according to leaked
The details are outlined in American embassy
dispatches made public this week by WikiLeaks.
Some of the suspected cases involve priests of the
Coptic Christian community in Egypt, who are trying to find homes for street
children but run into Egypt’s Islamic law, which bans adoption, according
to a spokesman in Canada.
The crackdown began after American and Egyptian
investigators dismantled a ring that used false birth-registration papers to
bring babies to the United States, arresting 10 people, including two U.S.
citizens, said a February, 2009 cable from the U.S. Cairo embassy.
Other embassies were briefed and “afterwards, the
Canadian Embassy undertook a comprehensive review of almost 300 cases,
identifying about a dozen that were suspect and subsequently referring those
to SSIS [Egyptian State Security Investigative Services],” the cable said.
In July, 2009, the fraud prevention unit of the U.S.
embassy met with a “visiting team from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
(RCMP) who arrived in Cairo specifically to begin an investigation of the
baby smuggling network with regards to Canada,” said another cable from
“Further close cooperation with the RCMP will be
important in identifying cases that may have used Canada as a means to enter
the United States.”
It is unclear where the investigation into these
cases stand. So far the RCMP investigation has not led to any charges, said
spokeswoman Sergeant Michèle Paradis, declining to comment further.
Adoption by foreigners is almost impossible in
Egypt. Islamic law forbids adoption, leaving Christian minorities like the
Copts in a legal bind. In cases that have become public, Coptic priests were
allegedly trying to place orphans with Egyptian-American families.
“This is not smuggling. It’s the clash between
Christian values and Islamic sharia law … This is how for 1,400 years the
Christians who are oppressed by Islamic law survived,” said Sherif
Mansour, a spokesman for the Canadian Coptic Association.
“There’s 1.2 million kids in the streets of
Cairo right now … Which way do you want it? People adopting those children
or letting them live under the bridges?”
In several cases outlined in the cables, Coptic
priests allegedly acted as middlemen. “The FPU [Fraud Prevention Unit] has
confirmed the active role of Coptic priests and nuns in smuggling infants
and children to the United States,” said the September, 2009 cable.
A priest was, for example, involved in a case where
an American couple admitted to getting a newborn from a Coptic hospital in
Alexandria after paying a U.S. $70 fee, said a January, 2010 cable.
Subpoenaed by a local prosecutor, the priest tried
to get a visa to the U.S. but withdrew his application before he was
interviewed and fingerprinted.
“He appeared at the Canadian Embassy the following
day to apply for a visa. The visa was issued, but subsequently cancelled”
when the embassy learned that Egyptian authorities wanted him.
The cables do not offer more details about what
happened to the suspect.
But the cables describe a tight co-operation between
Western authorities and Egypt’s SSIS, which has been accused of torture
and other human-rights abuses.
The cables refer to the cases of two
Egyptian-American couples who were sentenced in 2009 to two years in jail
for trying to illegally adopt from a Coptic orphanage.
One of the two couples, Iris Botros and Louis Andros
of Durham, N.C., said they donated $4,500 in return for twins and false
papers claiming Ms. Botros had given birth to the two babies.
A Coptic priest told American diplomats the practice
has been going on since 1976.
“He stated that the majority of the priests
involved in illegal adoptions are very charismatic, have numerous followers
and are consumed with their position of power as leaders of the Coptic
community,” the priest said, according to a February, 2010 cable.
“According to this priest, the `big’
personalities of these individuals have prompted them to engage in
activities not condoned by many others in the Coptic Church. He mentioned
that the Church is more than capable of raising and educating unwanted
Coptic children. He added that in Alexandria, literally hundreds of babies
are given to childless families and only a few have been taken out of
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