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Aya Hijazi, founder of an NGO that looks after street children, sits reading a book inside a holding cell as she faces trial on charges of human trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors, and using children in protests, at a courthouse in Cairo, Egypt, March 23, 2017. (REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Free at last

U.S. woman released after spending 3 years locked in Egyptian prison

April 21, 2017

An Egyptian-American woman was freed from prison after three years this week, ending a detention that had long been criticized by human rights groups. Aya Hijazi, 30, and her husband were arrested in 2014 when the charity they worked for, which helps street children in Egypt, was raided by authorities, according to CNN. Hijazi was hit with child abuse and human trafficking charges, which human rights groups lambasted as bogus. She was held in prison for 33 months without a trial — nine months longer than the law in Egypt allows for a person to be held without being sent to trial. The arrest came amid Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cracking down on those who disagree with his policies. On Sunday, Hijazi finally had her day in court and was acquitted for her charges.

On Friday, Hijazi, a dual citizen, returned to the U.S. and was greeted at the White House by President Donald Trump. The stage was set for Hijazi’s release last month when al-Sisi paid a visit to the White House and the president reportedly broached the topic of her release. According to White House press secretary Sean Spice, the Trump administration quietly negotiated her release with the al-Sisi administration.

The two met in in front of the cameras on Friday in the Oval Office and chatted, but Trump declined to take questions, saying only, “We are very happy to have Aya Hijazi back home, and it’s a great honor to have her in the Oval Office with her brother and thank you very much,” as Hijazi sat next to him smiling. Watch a clip of the meeting below.

Read the full story at NBC News and CNN.


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