A funeral held for the little girl. Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: A provincial Egyptian court has ordered a woman, charged with fatally abusing her grandchild, be put under observation at a mental hospital.

Last month, the death of five-year-old girl Jana due to systematic torture by her grandmother sparked outrage in Egypt and drew lawsuits against the woman from child welfare groups in the country.

The Criminal Court in the Delta province of Mansura, north of Cairo, ordered on Wednesday the defendant, identified as Safaa Abdul Fattah, to stay under observation for six months at the mental hospital to determine her mental capability and responsibility for the murder.

The court order came in response to a request from the defendant’s lawyer, who questioned her mental capability at the high-profile trial that opened earlier this week.

“The accused is suffering from a mental problem. There is no other explanation for her committing this heinous crime,” the defendant’s lawyer Ahmad Barakat was quoted as telling the court.

“It is clear she has psychological and mental disorders since she was a child due to cruel family treatment,” he added.

The 41-year-old woman is also charged with physically abusing Jana’s six-year-old sister, who has survived the torture.

The defendant pleaded not guilty in court hearings, claiming she just wanted to “discipline” both girls.

Call for tougher penalties against abusers

The case has focused attention on domestic violence and triggered calls for tougher penalties against abusers.

Jana died late last month at hospital after she had been brought there with severe burns on different parts of her body, including the gentalia, according to Egyptian media.

Her parents divorced about four years ago.

She and her older sister Amani moved along with their blind mother to live at their grandma’s house under a court ruling in a custody lawsuit.

Three days before her death, Jana had her leg amputated due to wounds allegedly caused by the grandma’s torture.

Relatives said the woman used to beat up Jana over involuntary urination.

In recent months, several parents, mainly fathers, were convicted in Egypt of killing their children due to family disputes or under drug influence.