Trump Praises Release of Charity Worker
- Author: Adam Floyd Apr 22, 2017,
Apr 22, 2017, 1:44
Aya Hijazi and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, an Egyptian, were acquitted earlier this week of child abuse charges stemming from an aid organization they established to help street children in Egypt.
Now she and her husband are back in the U.S.: They arrived Thursday night at Joint Base Andrews on a military flight from Cairo, where they met Hijazi's family and McMullen. Hijazi was held in an Egyptian prison for three years before the Trump admin could win her release. President Donald Trump meets with Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American aid worker, in the Oval office of the White House in Washington, Friday, April 21, 2017.
Free after having been detained in an Egyptian jail for almost three years, Aya Hijazi was welcomed to the Oval Office on Friday in what the Trump administration cast as a diplomatic triumph.
The Trump administration hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sissi at the White House earlier this month, smoothing over relations.
The couple is expected to visit Trump at the White House Friday.More news: Trapped Mosul civilians could face worst catastrophe of Iraq conflict, United Nations warns
According to White House officials who spoke with The New York Times, Trump took an interest in Hijazi's case after being briefed about it ahead of Egyptian President Abdel el Sisi's visit. Trump told Sisi: "You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me". An administration official told the Washington Post today that there had been "assurance from the highest levels [of Sisi's government] that whatever the verdict was, Egypt would use presidential authority to send her home".
As the founders of the Belady Foundation, a non-governmental organization that looks after Cairo street children, Hijazi and her husband were arrested in 2014 as part of Sisi's crackdown on those opposing him as well as more liberal and secular activists.
This morning, the Washington Post and NPR both reported that the Trump administration had worked assiduously to free them.
A White House official said there was no quid pro quo offered for the releases, but they did receive assurance that the aid workers would not be called back to Egypt if they were found guilty at a later date. Trump and White House aides negotiated their release as well as freedom for four other humanitarian workers, and Trump sent a USA government aircraft to Cairo to bring them home, the Post reported.
"She was kept in pretty isolating circumstances" and "not even her lawyers can have time with her", McMullen said of Hijazi, who was born in Egypt and grew up in Falls Church, Virginia.