An Egyptian-American charity aid worker was finally freed and returned to Washington, DC on April 21, 2017. She was detained in Egypt for over three years on inflated charges.
Aya Hijazi thanks the Trump administration for negotiating her release with officials. As the founder of a nonprofit organization designed to help homeless children in Cairo, Aya Hijazi thought there was no hope of release soon.
However, Thursday morning she flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the nation’s capital on a United States military plane. She was accompanied by Trump’s deputy national security advisor, Dina Powell, and family, reports Politico.
Egypt’s Brutal Crackdowns a Global Concern
Egypt, over the past few years, has implemented a crackdown on civil society, imprisoning individuals with false allegations and bogus charges. Hijazi and friends were detained for 33 months, reports NBC News. This was longer than the maximum 24-month mark allowed under Egyptian law.
For weeks, President Trump and his administration have quietly negotiated Hijazi’s release. Hijazi, a United States citizen, her husband Mohamed Hassanein, and four other aid workers were released. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi secured their freedom with assistance from the Trump administration.
Trump then dispatched a government aircraft to Egypt to bring them home.
Hijazi grew up in Falls Church, Virginia. She graduated from George Mason University and worked in Egypt with the Belady Foundation. She and her husband created a haven and rehabilitation center for homeless children in Cairo.
The couple, as well as their aide staff, had been incarcerated since May 1, 2014. Egyptian officials claim they were guilty of child abuse and trafficking and exploiting minors for protests. All of these charges were dismissed by the human rights workers as well as United States officials. No evidence was presented in the case, and for three years they were held without a hearing. Instead, Egyptian officials continually postponed hearings and trial dates. Some say that the workers were abused in prison.
Obama Administration Dropped the Ball
President Trump is not the first to negotiate the release. In fact, the Obama administration pressed Sissi’s government for weeks on a release. However, it was not until Trump reset the country’s relations with Egypt and embraced Sissi during his White House visit that the two countries could see eye to eye. In fact, when Trump promised Egypt the strength of United States backing, Egypt’s entire posture toward the free country changed.
Obama’s tough stance on Sissi is likely to blame for the ineffective negotiations of the aid workers’ release. Trump’s administration, however, took a different approach. After all, Obama barred Sissi from the White House due to Egypt’s human rights policies. McMullen told media reporters that Trump and his team worked with Sissi to negotiate a friendly release.
A court in Cairo then dropped charges against the aides and released them into U.S. custody.
Once back on her feet, Hijazi plans to continue her humanitarian efforts.