President Trump met Friday with an Egyptian-American charity worker who returned home to the Washington, D.C., area Thursday night following her release from a three-year incarceration in Egypt for allegedly baseless charges.
Aya Hijazi, 30, visited the White House and thanked Trump who, according to Hijazi’s lawyer, was instrumental in securing her release.
“First and foremost, there have been countless number of people advocating for Aya Hijazi’s freedom,” Wade McMullen told NBC News. “I think Trump and his team deserve credit for making this a priority at the most critical time in her case.”
Hijazi and her brother visited with the president, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Dina Powell, an Egyptian American and Trump’s deputy national security adviser for strategy.
“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,” Trump said.
Hijazi’s case began to take a positive turn following Trump’s meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House earlier in April. Trump assured Sisi, “You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me.”
Hijazi and her husband are founders of the Belady Foundation, a non-governmental organization that provides assistance for Cairo street children. They were arrested in 2014 during Sisi’s attempt to suppress those opposing him, including more liberal and secular activists.
Hijazi was incarcerated for 33 months while awaiting trial—nine months longer than the maximum that Egyptian law allows.
On Sunday, Hijazi was acquitted by a Cairo court on charges of human trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors and using children in protests, all seen as bogus by U.S. officials and human rights groups.
Hijazi’s husband, Egyptian national Mohamed Hassanein, was also released Thursday night along with four additional humanitarian workers.
Hijazi’s release had been called for by the Obama administration which held an unyielding stance on Sisi that included barring him from the White House due to Egypt’s human rights policies.
“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.
“The prosecution quickly realized they didn’t have enough evidence to substantiate [the charges],” he noted.
Despite their imprisonment, Hijazi and her husband told McMullen that they will continue working for their charitable causes and are emboldened by their experience in Egypt.
“Just talking with them tonight, their spark is still there to make the world a better place,” McMullen said. “Whether it’s street children in Egypt or for any causes, once they’re back on their feet, they’ll be committed and working to make the world a better place.”
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@Scavino45) April 21, 2017
H/T: NBC News
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