Cairo: When Abu Al Hassan Sabry got a phone call from his hometown in Qena in South Egypt, informing him that his six-year-old son Mohammad was sentenced to six months in jail, he thought they were kidding.
But when his cousins confirmed the news, a stunned Sabry left Aswan, also in South Egypt where he works, and returned to Qena, around 650 kilometres south of Cairo, to see what to do.
“My son is a little boy. Besides, he was not summoned to police investigations, or to the court. There must be something wrong,” the shocked father said. “The family and the whole village are shocked.”
The case dates back to November last year when a police force went to Mohammad’s village to arrest a wanted man, but locals reportedly attacked the police, injuring two of them.
Twenty-nine people, including the boy, were accused of assaulting the police and referred to prosecution.
The Qena Criminal Court later tried them in absentia. Last week, the court found 10 of the defendants, including Mohammad, guilty of resisting authorities and sentenced them to six months in prison each. The court acquitted the 10 others, according to Egyptian newspapers.
“How a child could be given a jail sentence?” the father asked. “What about police investigations that verify the accused people’s identities? Didn’t they know he is a six-year-old child, who does not know the meanings of resisting authorities or even a lawsuit?” said the man. “He did not show up at the police station or investigated. The court considered him a fugitive,” added the father, who plans to appeal the sentence.
The boy in question is a first grader at the village’s school.
“What does a case mean?” Mohammad told private newspaper Al Watan. “Shall I go to jail? I stopped going to school for fear that the government arrests me.”
So far, there has been no comment from authorities, days after the case was reported in the Egyptian media.
Some legal experts believe that the case will be dropped when the boy’s birth certificate is presented to the court.
“Obviously, there is an error in the procedures of this case,” said lawyer Jamal Abdul Majid. “The court issues its verdicts based on documents available to it. As the court heard this case, the boy’s family did not provide what proves that he is a child,” Abdul Majid told Gulf News.
“Under the law, no child should be tried at a criminal court.”