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Nov 20, 2014 8:54 AM

Egypt acquits doctor in female genital mutilation

The Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) An Egyptian court on Thursday acquitted a doctor charged with performing female genital mutilation that led to a 13-year-old girl's death in a Nile Delta village, the country's first trial on charges of breaking the ban on the practice.

The verdict surprised activists against the practice, who had been hoping for a conviction and tough sentence to serve as a deterrent for doctors and families. Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world and criminalized the practice in 2008, but it remains widespread.

The court in the Nile Delta Province of Dakahliya ruled that the doctor, Raslan Fadl, and the father of Sohair el-Batea, the girl who died, were not guilty on charges of breaking the ban on the practice, said Reda el-Danbouki, a lawyer involved in bringing the case to trial. The judge did not immediately explain the verdict.

The judge also dropped a charge of manslaughter because the family and the doctor had earlier agreed to reconcile, el-Danbouki said. The family was paid 60,000 pounds, or about $8,500, in compensation.

El-Danbouki said he is coordinating with rights groups to appeal the verdict.

Sohair's family initially filed a police report saying she died as a result of female genital mutilation, but changed their story after reconciling with the doctor, said el-Danbouki. The case came to trial only after significant pressure from rights groups, he added.

The lawyer said that the judge ignored all medical reports that proved the girl underwent female genital mutilation, ignored a Health Ministry decision to shut down the doctor's clinic because it violated medical standards, and ignored the law itself.

"On personal level, I am shocked," he said.

Earlier this month the Associated Press visited Fadl's village and found that the doctor was still practicing in the same building.

Atef Aboul Einein, another lawyer who followed the case, said "this opens the door for any doctor to perform the same procedure without fear of being held accountable and in absence of any deterrence."

More than 90 percent of Egyptian women are estimated to have undergone the procedure, which in Egypt generally involves the cutting off of all or part of the clitoris and sometimes the labia. In a conservative society, it is believed to control a young woman's sexual appetite.

It is practiced in 29 countries, most in East and West Africa, but also in Iraq and Yemen. It is practiced among both Muslims and Christians. Rights groups see it as a way to control female sexuality that causes physical and psychological damage.


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