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Egypt’s first female genital mutilation trial ends in not guilty verdict

The first doctor to be brought to trial in Egypt on charges of female genital mutilation has been acquitted, raising fears the verdict could lead to FGM being practised with impunity.

Dr Raslan Fadl, who is also an Islamic preacher in a village in the Nile delta, was acquitted of mutilating Sohair al-Bata’a in June 2013. The 13-year-old died during the procedure.

No reason was given – the verdict was instead scrawled in a ledger rather than announced in the courtroom in Agga, north Egypt.

Sohair’s father, Mohamed al-Bata’a, was also acquitted of responsibility, despite police and health officials testifying that the child’s parents had admitted taking their daughter to Fadl’s clinic for the procedure.

The doctor was ordered to pay 5,001 Egyptian pounds (about £450) to Sohair’s mother after the pair reached an out-of-court settlement.

The case had been pursued rigorously by activists and government officials in the hope that it would send a strong message to doctors that FGM, which was nominally made illegal in 2008, would no longer be tolerated. Instead, a lawyer from a local rights group – the first to take up Sohair’s case – said the verdict had signalled the opposite. “Of course there will be no stopping any doctor after this. Any doctor can do any FGM he wants now,” Atef Aboulenein said.

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