CAIRO: A 66-year old Saudi Arabian national was sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia for marrying an underage Egyptian girl, egynews.net reported Friday.
Suliman Abdel-Rahman married a 14-year old girl after a broker and a lawyer facilitated the marriage, the report added.
The broker received the same sentence, said the report.
“The verdict reflects the state’s intention to fight such a crime,” Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) Hafez Abu Seada told Daily News Egypt.
“In case it is a onetime ruling, I think people can still manipulate it,” Abu Seada, also a lawyer, explained.
The court sentenced the lawyer who forged the common law (urfi) marriage contract to two years in prison, while the minor’s parents were handed down a one-year suspended sentence.
All defendants were ordered to pay large fines.
The court said that the verdict aimed to protect children from human-trafficking and warn parents against committing such a crime.
Press reports earlier said that the girl was forced to marry the senior man.
“This is one of the most severe violations of young girls, especially in poor areas and villages, which leads to other problems in the future,” Abu Seada explained.
According to the court, the Saudi defendant took advantage of the dire economic circumstances of the victim’s family. The purpose of the marriage, the court noted, was mainly sexual exploitation.
When the Prosecutor General was informed of the incident, he ordered an investigation, calling on the religious opinion of the Grand Mufti of Egypt. The Mufti confirmed that the marriage was not valid.
The investigation revealed that the Saudi man had visited a village with the broker seeking a possible wife. The woman then showed him the victim, whom he married after paying a total of LE 14,000 that was divided among the defendants.
The defendants had pleaded not guilty in earlier hearings.
On May 2, the People’s Assembly (PA) had passed an anti-trafficking law in a bid to combat what the UN has said is a rising phenomenon in Egypt.
Based on the law, a victim is not to be questioned for any compulsorily crimes s/he committed.
On April 21, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Joy Ngozi Ezeilo praised the strong political commitment of the Egyptian government to tackle human trafficking.
However, she noted in a press conference wrapping up her 10-day visit to Egypt that there were some challenges remaining to be addressed in order to protect and respect the human rights of the victims of trafficking.
Ngozi Ezeilo said that that there were indications that trafficking for compulsory marriages, forced labor, transportation of human organs and body tissues may be much more than the current estimates.
In June 2008, Egypt was severely criticized by the Trafficking in Persons Report published by the US State Department.
According to the report, wealthy men from the Gulf reportedly travel to Egypt to purchase “temporary marriages” with Egyptian women, including in some cases girls who are under the age of 18, often facilitated by the females’ parents and marriage brokers.
Some Egyptian cities may also be destinations for sex tourism.