Seven Egyptian policemen have been sentenced to six months in prison for having a fellow officer appear in court pretending he was a suspected criminal who had fled their custody, according to court sources.

The policemen had arrested Mohammed Sami on drugs possession charges toward the end of 2000 and placed him in custody.

But he escaped on the eve of his appearance in court in the southern city of Luxor, the sources said.

The embarrassed policemen convinced a colleague to appear in court pretending he was the suspect.

Their deception was uncovered when a friend of Sami appeared at the same time to answer charges that he was involved in the case.

The court ordered the policemen to stand trial in the criminal court in Luxor, which has now handed down the jail sentence.

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