Conflicting accounts in case of 4-year-old sentenced to life in prison

Denying a flurry of media reports to the contrary, the Armed Forces released a statement Monday declaring that a 4-year-old boy has not been sentenced to life in prison by a military court, but rather a 16-year-old boy of a similar name.

On February 16, a military court sentenced 116 people to life in prison on nine counts, including the murder of three people in Fayoum during a January 3, 2014 protest, the attempted murder of six others, illegal arms possession and vandalism. The military described the protesters as Muslim Brotherhood members who “terrorized” their fellow citizens by firing weapons and Molotov cocktails during the demonstration. The name of Ahmed Mansour Qorani, 4, was included on the list of defendants.

The ruling caught the attention of local and international media, who reported with outrage and ridicule that a child had been convicted for a murder he allegedly committed before his second birthday. Since last Tuesday’s ruling, conflicting accounts have emerged regarding who was actually convicted from the boy’s family, the military and the Interior Ministry.

On Monday, the Armed Forces spokesperson claimed that media reports had confused the name of the young child with that of teenager Ahmed Mansour Qorani Sharara, who was sentenced in absentia. The statement claimed Sharara has fled his registered address and is currently a fugitive.

The Fayoum prosecution ordered Sharara’s arrest on January 5, 2014, based on intelligence from the National Security Agency. When security forces went to apprehend him, he had escaped to an unknown location, the Armed Forces claimed. Sharara was never found or interrogated regarding his alleged crimes.

But on Saturday, February 20, the father of the 4-year-old Ahmed Mansour Qorani said that in January 2014 the security forces actually showed up at his home to arrest Ahmed, who was two at the time. Telling the story on the “Al-Ashera Masa’an” (10 pm) talk show hosted by Wael al-Ibrashy, and broadcast on the privately owned satellite channel Dream TV, Qorani said when he told the police that Ahmed was only two, they arrested him instead. Qorani claimed he spent four months in prison before finally being released without charge.

Lawyer Eid Sayed showed case documents during the broadcast that listed Ahmed Mansour Qorani Sharara as living on a neighboring street in the same area. An anonymous head of a military court then phoned in to describe the mix-up as “an administrative problem within the police,” which he said is easy to fix.

Both Monday’s statement from the Armed Forces and the family’s account conflict with statements given by Abu Bakr Abdel Karim, the deputy interior minister for public relations. During a phone interview on the Saturday broadcast of “Al-Ashera Masa’an,” he claimed that the child’s 51-year-old uncle Ahmed Qorani Ahmed Ali was the suspect actually implicated in the crime.

Abdel Karim justified the mistaken arrest with the explanation that suspects apprehended during the 2014 protest may have given the wrong names during interrogation.

“It’s a mistake that’s being fixed,” he said, echoing the anonymous caller from the military court.

Sayed countered the claim that the uncle was in fact involved in a different case, and was acquitted on those charges.

In another phone-in to the same episode, a military officer, who remained anonymous, instructed the father to take his son and lawyer to the Defense Ministry to present a complaint, along with his son’s birth certificate.

“Your problem will be solved within 15 minutes,” he declared.

But while the show was live on air, the child’s mother also called in to say the police had just showed up at their home looking for Ahmed and his father.