CAIRO -- An Egyptian
court found two defendants not guilty Thursday of performing female genital mutilation on a young girl that led to her death, crushing hopes that the government would crack down on the illegal but still widely practiced procedure.
The two defendants, Dr. Raslan Fadl and the father of 13 year-old Suheir El-Batea, had faced up to two years in prison. Suheir died in June 2013 following an operation that took place in Fadl's office.
"The ruling is an affront to the memory of the deceased," defense lawyer Reda El-Danbouki, who worked on the case, told CBS News. "Suheir will not rest easily in her grave."
The justification for the acquittal was not immediately clear. El-Danbouki said that the judge has yet to publicly release his legal reasoning behind the ruling.
It was supposed to be a landmark case, the first attempt in Egypt to prosecute someone for performing female genital cutting. Often referred to here as "female circumcision," Egypt outlawed the practice in 2008, but it persists. The United Nations estimates that more that 90 percent of Egyptian women have been subjected to the procedure.
Human rights groups and lawyers working on the case told CBS News that with all of the available evidence they had been expecting a guilty verdict.
"We had a very strong case with testimonies from the attorney general and the Ministry of Health; they clearly indicated the performance of FGM on Suheir's body," said Su'ad Abu Dayyeh, Middle East and North Africa consultant for the legal advocacy group Equality Now, one of the organizations that worked to bring the case to trial.
The hope, she said, was that a successful conviction would set an important legal precedent for 바카라사이트
going after those who continue to perform and facilitate the procedures.
"We were hoping ... [the verdict] would be a tool that women's groups and local organizations can use to make people aware about the FGM law and that these people, these doctors should be banned," Abu Dayyeh said.
Even though Egypt has outlawed it, there are still doctors and midwives who perform the operation, which has a long tradition principally in East and West African countries. Both Christian and Muslim communities are known to practice it, ostensibly because it is seen as curbing and controlling the sexual desires of women.
Getting the case to trial was a long and arduous process. Though Suheir's father initially filed a police report saying she died as a result of the procedure, the family later reconciled with the doctor and the father attempted to recant his original testimony, El-Danbouki said. Fadl reportedly paid a sum of money to the family.
Fadl continues to practice medicine. A recent visit by The Associated Press to his office found groups of young girls and their families in a Winnie the Pooh-bedecked waiting room inside the same building where Suheir's operation took place.
Even though she's discouraged, Thursday's ruling won't stop Abu Dayyeh's push for stauncher enforcement of Egypt's FGM law.
"We will not give up," she said. "We will use all mechanisms we can to pursue the doctor and the father."
Lawyer El-Danbouki said that the defense team will appeal the verdict.