An Egyptian-American charity worker who was held by Egyptian authorities for almost three years following a crackdown on civil society was flown back to the United States late Thursday following the intervention by the Trump administration, according to media reports.
Aya Hijazi, 30, and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, an Egyptian, were flown aboard a U.S. government plane to the Washington area, according to The Washington Post, which was first to report their release. The report was later confirmed by CBS News.
Hijazi, a dual national, was born in Egypt and grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Falls Church, Va.
Hijazi, who had worked with street children in Cairo through a foundation she co-founded,was acquitted on Sunday of charges of child abuse, trafficking, sexual exploitation and torture that human rights groups and U.S. officials had dismissed as bogus. Hijazi’s husband and six others were also found not guilty, according to The French news agency AFP.
The trial had been repeatedly postponed since the arrests in May 2014.
President Trump, who welcomed Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Sissi to the White House earlier this month,.sent the plane to Cairo to bring them back, escorted by his military aide, Air Force Maj. Wes Spurlock, the Post reported.
Hijazi and her brother, Basel, were scheduled to visit the White House on Friday to meet with Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who had followed Hijazi’s case, the Post reported, quoting an unidentified senior administration official.
President Obama had unsuccessfully tried to win Hijazi’s release, according to the newspaper. The Post said Egypt’s position changed after Trump moved to reset U.S. relations with Cairo by embracing Sissi on April 3. Trump publicly offered Washington’s “strong backing” for Sissi, a former Army chief who took power in a military coup in 2013.
The Post quoted the senior administration official as saying that no quid pro quo had been offered for Hijazi’s release but that the U.S. had gotten high-level assurances that Hijazi would released regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s trial. Officials had expected her to be deported following a guilty verdict and pardon and were pleasantly surprised by the acquittal.
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