Local News

Egyptian authorities accuse Durham couple of human trafficking

Posted March 16, 2009 5:15 p.m. EDT
Updated March 16, 2009 6:25 p.m. EDT

— A Durham couple pleaded not guilty in an Egyptian court Saturday to charges that they tried to buy babies and forge birth certificates.

About three months ago, Louis Andros and Iris Botros, who own Zorba's Greek restaurant on N.C. Highway 55, went to Botros' native Egypt to adopt a 3-month-old boy and girl.

But when they went to the U.S. Embassy to get papers to bring the children home, embassy staffers called Egyptian authorities. Police arrested the couple on charges of trying to buy children, using forged documents and helping to forge documents.

"Our American Embassy, you know, instead of helping us, put us in jail," Andros told CNN.

On Saturday, the couple appeared in a Cairo courtroom, handcuffed and inside a cage, CNN reported.

"You know, it's mind boggling," their friend, David Barnette, said in Durham.

The couple had struggled with infertility for years, and Botros began working with an Egyptian church to arrange the adoption. However, adoption was made illegal in Egypt last year and violates Islamic law – facts that Botros said she and her husband didn't know.

"They had been dreaming of children. ... They are now in jail because of this dream," said the couple's lawyer, Sameh Ahmed Saleh. "They didn't know they were making something against the law in Egypt."

Botros is a green-card resident of the U.S., and Andros is a naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated from Greece when he was 15 years old.

"Adoption is legal in the Christian religion. And because she's lived in the U.S.for 15 years, both ways, she couldn't realize she was doing something wrong," Saleh said.

Egyptian authorities also arrested two other couples as part of beginning a wider crackdown on human trafficking.

"We will not get a fair trial," Botros said.

If found guilty, Andros and Botros could spend 15 years in an Egyptian prison. They will remain in a jail until their next court appearance on May 16.

Meanwhile, their friends say, their restaurant is struggling to survive without them.

"It's hard to believe they can't come back," Barnette said.

The children in all the cases have been returned to their orphanages.