An Egyptian court sentenced four-year-old Ahmed Mansour Karni to life in prison last week for various crimes, including four counts of murder and eight counts of attempted murder. And in the latest twist, it was revealed that the boy’s father was imprisoned two years ago for initially rejecting the sentence and refusing to turn in his son.
“Police officers knocked on my door and asked me to hand over my four-year-old son,” the boy’s father told Dream satellite channel’s Wael al-Ibrashi on Saturday, February 20, according to Egypt Independent. “When I refused, they took me to the police station and referred me the other day to the prosecution, where I was remanded into custody for 15 days pending investigations.”
The boy’s father was arrested two years ago and was held in custody for four months, according to the BBC.
Four-year-old Ahmed Mansour Karni was accused not only of murder and attempted murder, but also of damaging state property, threatening soldiers and police, and damaging security forces’ vehicles, according to the Jerusalem Post. All these crimes were allegedly committed before the child had even reached the age of two
A defense attorney told the Jerusalem Post that he had presented the child’s birth certificate to the court, but “it appeared that the court did not transfer the material.”
It is still not clear why Ahmed was sentenced to life in prison. According to some reports, the four-year-old boy was the victim of an apparent mix up, either with a sixteen-year-old or his fifty-one-year old uncle, both of whom had similar names to the boy.
Unsurprisingly, news of the sentence has been met with outrage, with many taking to social media to comment on the corruption and inefficiency of Egypt’s court system.
Egyptian lawyer Mohammed Abu Hurira wrote in a response, “On the eve of injustice and madness in Egypt, a four-year-old child was sentenced to life imprisonment. He is accused of disturbance, damage to property and murder. The Egyptian scales of justice are not reversible. There is no justice in Egypt. No reason. Logic committed suicide a while ago. Egypt went crazy. Egypt is ruled by a bunch of lunatics.”
The four-year-old boy was among 116 individuals who were sentenced to life in prison in a mass hearing. In recent years, such hearings have become an increasingly popular approach to “justice” in Egypt, which Human Rights Watch describes as trapped in a “human rights crisis.” Over the last 2.5 years, the country has witnessed mass killings of Muslim Brotherhood members, torture, and a counterterrorism law that is so broad it makes the death penalty a possible punishment for engaging in civil disobedience.
The latest story of Ahmed and his father serves as a reminder not only of the deterioration of human rights in Egypt — but also of the hollowness of U.S. claims of supporting human rights around the globe. The United States only temporarily suspended aid to Egypt after the Rabaa massacre in August 2013 — an event Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth has called the “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.” As Daniel Wickham has previously noted for Muftah, only months after the attack, the United States “provided the Egyptian government with $44m worth of guided missiles, as well as spare parts for tanks, Apache helicopters, and F-16s, which were apparently exempt from the cut.” By June 2014, after Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power, an additional $575 million in previously withheld U.S. aid was also released.
More recently, the Obama administration has begun considering removing human rights restrictions on aid to Egypt. Under current U.S. law, about 15 percent of total aid to the country can be withheld based on human rights concerns. The United States waived that restriction last year based on U.S. national security interests — something the United States has long claimed to support brutal dictators in the region.
[A previous version of this piece did not make clear that the boy’s father was arrested two years ago, not after the sentence was handed down. Slight changes have been made for clarification.]