Trump administration helps free detained aid worker in Egypt

Trump had privately asked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to help out in the case when Sisi visited the White House on April 3, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Trump made a deal: he'd praise al-Sisi and host him in the White House in return for the release of a prisoner.

Chaperoned by top American officials, Ms Hijazi and Mr Hassanein were reportedly flown back on a military aircraft to Joint Base Andrews, near Washington DC, at 22:00 on Thursday.

US officials had unsuccessfully advocated for Aya Hijazi's release for years.

Rather than spending money on a lavish wedding, the couple used their money to launch the Belady Foundation to help children who live on the streets in Cairo, human rights advocates wrote in a piece published by The Huffington Post.

Two Republican US senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of SC, called on the Egyptian government to take more steps to improve human rights.

Earlier this week, a court acquitted Hijazi of charges of child abuse that were widely dismissed as bogus by human rights groups and USA officials.

She was flown to Joint Base Andrews, the USA military airfield on the outskirts of Washington.

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That pilot, who was on a routine training mission at the time, was able to eject himself from the D.C. April 17 at the Breton Bay Golf Course and Country Club in Leonardtown in Maryland.

Hijazi was accompanied on the flight by Dina Powell, the deputy White House national security adviser for strategy. And even by Egyptian law, it was illegal for her to be held for trial for more than two years.

The administration of former President Barack Obama had lobbied without success for Ms Hijazi's release, frustrating her family.

"As far as the release of the American citizen, she was found innocent in the Egyptian courts, and appropriately she is returned home", Mattis told reporters Friday in Tel Aviv. Embassy officials in Egypt and the administration did take up their case, but US-Egypt relations were frigid during the last administration - in part because of the human rights abuses by the Sisi regime.

Egypt, under President Sisi's regime, has serious problems when it comes to excessive force by officials, lack of due process and suppressed civil liberties, according to the State Department, and Hijazi's unjust imprisonment was seen by many human rights activists as representative of larger problems in the country.

At that meeting, Trump described the el-Sisi's leadership as "fantastic" and offered the US government's "strong backing".

Mattis is the first cabinet level official to visit Egypt from the Trump administration.


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