Algiers: An Algiers criminal court has sentenced to 12 years in jail a doctor accused of kidnapping Algerian children born to single mothers and selling them for adoption in France.
Khalifah Hanouti, accused of illegally shipping the children abroad with the help of a notary, must also pay a fine of a million dinars (Dh47,465), the court ruled late on Monday.
Six French suspects of Algerian origin living in the French city of Saint-Etienne were sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison plus a fine of €20,000 (Dh94,956) each.
A notary accused of writing “disclaimer documents” signed by single mothers was sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of €10,000.
Four defendants were sentenced to three years suspended while another was acquitted.
The prosecution had requested a 20-year jail sentence and a fine of five million dinars for the main suspect, Hanouti.
It had also demanded 10-year sentences for each of the remaining 12 suspects in the case, in which nine children of single mothers were allegedly kidnapped and sent to Saint-Etienne.
Seven of the accused appeared in court on Monday but none of the six French suspects of Algerian origin were present.
The case came to light in 2009 and according to the indictment, it concerns nine children born to single mothers, sent to Saint-Etienne, where they were adopted for a fee.
The case first came to light when a young woman died in 2009 during an abortion at a clinic in the Algiers suburb of Ain Taya run by Hanouti, and an investigation was launched.
The lawyer said his client had initially been prosecuted for performing illegal abortions but this charge was finally dropped.
Hanouti had been convicted on the same charge in 2002, and handed a two-year jail sentence, of which he served nine months before being released.
Abortion is a crime in Algeria and women patients risk two years in prison, while doctors can be jailed for up to five.
One of the other suspects, Boualem Ibari, who lives in Saint-Etienne, “adopted two boys from the Ain Taya nursery, according to Algerian procedures,” the lawyer said.
“He was even authorised by the court of Rouiba [near Ain Taya] to change their names and take them out of Algeria on his passport,” he added.
Hamid Touliba, another lawyer for Hanouti, said “all adoptions in this case took place according to the law, with authentic documents, and none of the biological mothers filing a complaint.”
The charges of those on trial include criminal conspiracy, transporting children with premeditation, forgery and impersonation.