Published On: Wed, Apr 26th, 2017

Aya Hijazi released from Egypt prison: Sens. Graham and McCain applaud President Trump

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John McCain (R-Arizona) released the following statement on the release of Aya Hijazi and other humanitarian aid workers from prison in Egypt:

“We join the entire nation in welcoming home Aya Hijazi and her husband Mohamed Hassanein who have been wrongly imprisoned for the last three years in Egypt. President Trump has made this case a top priority, and we applaud him for working with the Government of Egypt to secure their long-overdue release, as well as the release of four of their colleagues.

“As we celebrate the return of these innocent individuals, the United States must continue to advocate for human rights in Egypt, which have been under attack by a series of executive actions and increasingly repressive laws aimed to weaken democratic institutions, limit freedom of assembly and free speech, and shut down civil society activities as well as NGOs such as the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute and others. While we continue to support Egypt’s fight against terrorism and extremism within its borders, there does not need to be a trade-off between security and human rights. We urge the Government of Egypt to build on this important first step by releasing all those who have been wrongly imprisoned, upholding its international human rights obligations, and respecting the Egyptian people’s right to freedom of expression and rule of law.”

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In a White House Press briefing last week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “The President is also extremely pleased to have Aya Hijazi and her husband home again after three long years — nearly three long years.  The President directly engaged behind the scenes on her behalf and made it clear to the Egyptian government how important it was to him that this American be released and returned.

“For those of you who are not fully aware of the story, Aya Hijazi was running an NGO dedicated to improving the lives of children in Cairo.  Nearly three years ago, she, along with her husband and six Egyptian colleagues, were arrested and held without trial for almost, as I mentioned, three years.  Early in the administration, the President was briefed on the situation and directed his national security team to figure out ways to address this situation through diplomatic channels.

“The President discussed the issue privately with President el-Sisi when he visited the White House a short time ago.  And today, the President is proud to be welcoming her back to the White House and happy that she is back home on American soil.  He will be meeting with her, and her brother is accompanying her in the Oval Office very shortly. ”

Who is Aya Hijazi?

According to Human Rights Watch:

Hijazi, an Egyptian-American, and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, an Egyptian citizen, are co-founders of the Belady Foundation, which provided services for Cairo street children. Police raided the foundation on May 1, 2014, without a judicial warrant, confiscated laptops and other equipment, and detained Hijazi, Hassanein, and several others, including a woman who provided meals, an artist who shared the premises, and the children present. Authorities charged the adults with human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, using children in anti-government protests, and operating an unlicensed organization.

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