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Mohamed el Raai, AP Photo, File

US woman released from Egypt prison after 3 years' detention, visits Trump

By The Associated Press  |  Posted Apr 21st, 2017 @ 11:06am


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CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian-American charity worker Aya Hijazi was released from prison after nearly three years of detention, her lawyer said Wednesday.

President Donald Trump met Hijazi Friday at the White House.

Trump was directly involved in negotiations to free Aya Hijazi, 30, said White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Hijazi and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, an Egyptian, returned to the Washington area this week.

"We are very happy to have Aya back home and it's a great honor to have her in the Oval Office," Trump said.

Hijazi's brother, Basel Hijazi, also attended the White House meeting, along with Trump aides Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Dina Powell.

Details of their arrival were first reported by The Washington Post. Their release and the freedom of four other humanitarian workers were negotiated by Trump and White House aides, and Trump sent a U.S. government aircraft to Cairo to bring them home, the Post reported.

Hijazi, a dual national, was born in Egypt and grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, a Washington suburb. She received a degree in conflict resolution from George Mason University in 2009.

Hijazi's lawyer, Taher Abol Nasr, told The Associated Press that Hijazi was released late Tuesday, two days after a court acquitted her of charges of child abuse that were widely dismissed as bogus by human rights groups and U.S. officials.

Hijazi, a dual national, and her husband had established a foundation to aid street children in 2013, but were arrested along with six others in 2014. It was not immediately clear whether her co-defendants were also released.

President Donald Trump did not publicly mention the case when he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi earlier this month, but a senior White House official had said ahead of the meeting that the case would be addressed.

Hijazi's foundation — named Belady, Arabic for "our nation" — had its offices raided after a man alleged that his son was missing and blamed it on Belady.

Egyptian authorities have clamped down on civil society, particularly human rights groups and other organizations that receive foreign funding. Such groups played a central role in the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and pro-government media often present them as part of a conspiracy to undermine the state.

The authorities also arrested thousands of people in the months following the 2013 overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, mainly his Islamist supporters but also a number of secular and liberal activists.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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