An American aid worker and her Egyptian husband who were languishing in a prison in Cairo for the last three years returned home to the Unites States yesterday thanks to intervention by the U.S. government.
The Washington Post is reporting on the release of Aya Hijazi, 30, of Falls Church, Virginia, and her Egyptian husband Mohamed Hassanein who were quietly released yesterday and flown home to the U.S. on board a military aircraft at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.
The couple and four other humanitarian workers were working with the Belady Foundation, which was founded by Hijazi and her husband as a rehabilitation center for street children in Cairo. Many of these children, which are said to number near one million, are runaways from abusive home situations and now face a life of homelessness, sexual assault, child prostitution as well as a lack of access to education and health care. They tend to be stigmatized by the general population as being disease-ridden and troublemakers, which only intensifies their plight.
It seems hard to believe that a woman so devoted to serving this forgotten population could be arrested by the government along with her husband and other aid workers on charges of child abuse and trafficking. These trumped up charges were largely dismissed by human rights workers and U.S. officials. No evidence was ever presented against them during the three years that they were held in prison while their trial dates were repeatedly postponed. During this time, human rights groups allege that they were abused.
President Trump learned about the case when preparing for the visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi earlier this month. Even though the Obama administration tried but failed to win their release, it wasn’t until President Trump welcomed al-Sissi to the U.S. on April 3, publicly praising him as being a fantastic leader and offering strong US support that the Egyptian posture began to change.
“We agree on so many things,” the president said at the time of al Sissi’s visit. “I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President al-Sissi.”
Last Sunday, a court in Cairo abruptly dropped all charges against Hijazi and the others.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions the past couple of days,” Hijazi’s brother, Basel, told the Post. “We’re very grateful that President Trump personally engaged with the issue. Working closely with the Trump administration was very important for my family at this critical time. It let us be reunited as a family. We’re so grateful.”
The freed prisoners touched down at Joint Base Andrews about 10 p.m. last evening. Hijazi and her brother, Basel, are scheduled to visit the White House today to meet with the president as well as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner who had all been following Hijazi’s plight.
As Basel said in the interview while aboard the plane, “We’re crying with relief to have them out.”
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