World News

Durham couple imprisoned in Egypt faces more troubles

Posted May 11, 2011 6:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2011 7:19 p.m. EDT

— A Durham couple at the center of an international adoption scandal says they were only trying to start a family when they were put on trial for human trafficking and locked away for years.

Iris Botros and Louis Andros were arrested in Egypt in November 2008 on charges that they attempted to adopt two infants from a Christian orphanage, which is prohibited under Islamic law.

The couple denied any wrongdoing, saying they thought it was legal, but they were convicted in 2009 and were each sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $18,000 in fines.

They were released March 12, and thought they would be able to return home, but they now say they are trapped in the country.

"They told us at the beginning (of our sentence that) we need to serve three months extra in prison and that would take care of the fine, and we did," Botros said in a phone interview from Cairo on Monday. "After we did the three months, they told us that this fine is not erased, and we need to come up with the money."

Botros and Andros, who used to own a Greek restaurant in Durham, say they no longer have anything. Their business is gone, and their house is in foreclosure.

The U.S. State Department says that the American embassy in Cairo is aware of the case and is working to clarify the terms of the couple's sentence and fines.

A Cairo church is helping the couple with a place to live for now, but there's yet another complication: Their travel visas ran out April 30.

Egyptian judges also found seven orphanage staff members guilty of forging birth certificates in the case.

Botros, who was born in Egypt, said she and her husband, a U.S. citizen in his 70s, served time with drug dealers and killers.

"I mean, thank God that we made it alive," she said.

Nearing the end of their sentence in January, revolution broke out in Egypt, and protesters broke into their prison. The couple and other inmates were set loose in the streets with no place to go.

For nine days, she said, the two lived on the streets until they could go back to prison.

"Me and my husband are all right, thank God," she said. "We found some people who helped us a lot, and we made friends, God bless them."