CAIRO (AFP) — Fourteen Egyptians, including officials and parents, were jailed for up to 15 years on Monday for involvement in leaking secondary school exams in a scandal that has rocked the country.
A court in Menya, 150 miles (240 kilometres) south of Cairo, convicted the group for trying in June to cheat the dreaded "thanawiya amma" -- Egypt's equivalent of A-levels or SATs -- that largely determine a child's future.
The court found the accused guilty of "having organised leaks, which damaged the principle of equality of opportunity between pupils," in the English and maths sections of the exams, a judicial source said.
Ringleader Ezzat Khalil Mansour, head of Menya's Examinations Committee, was jailed for 15 years and sacked.
His friend Ayman Rabie was jailed for 10 years for having bought the exam papers for 300 Egyptian pounds (55 dollars) and for subsequently selling them.
Four other accused, including a policeman and a headmaster, were jailed for seven years and fined 5,000 pounds. The other accused, including parents who bought the leaked exam papers, were jailed for between three and five years.
Five suspects were acquitted, including the owner of a bookshop whose photocopier was used to copy the exams.
In a country rife with corruption where some 20 percent live below the poverty line, a university education, especially a degree in medicine or engineering, can help to break down rigid class barriers.
When the scandal broke in June, public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud said the problem was limited to Menya and did not affect the majority of the 800,000 pupils who took the exam nationwide.
That declaration was greeted with scepticism by many parents.
The case has gripped the nation, bringing together state and opposition media in a rare show of unity to demand answers. Columnists have demanded a re-sit, with teachers and academics supporting them.
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