Trump: ‘We are very happy to have Aya back home’.
When President Donald Trump and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Sisi met earlier this month, one issue that must have been addressed during their productive discussions was the case of Egyptian-American charity worker Aya Hijazi, who had been jailed in Egypt for three years.
According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Trump had engaged directly on Hijazi’s behalf “and made it clear to the Egyptian government how important it was to him that this American be released and returned.” A few weeks later, Hijazi sat down with President Trump in the Oval Office to thank him for the diplomatic efforts.
“We are very happy to have Aya back home and it’s a great honor to have her in the Oval Office, with her brother,” Trump said, declining to answer questions about her case. Hijazi was accompanied by her brother, Basel.
Hijazi, an Egyptian who holds US citizenship, was acquitted by a Cairo court on Sunday along with seven others who had worked with street children.
Hijazi, 30, was flown to Joint Base Andrews, the US military airfield near Washington. She founded Belady, a non-governmental organization that promotes a better life for street children.
She had been in custody for 33 months in violation of Egyptian law, which states that the maximum period for pretrial detention is 24 months.
US officials had raised Hijazi’s case with Egypt soon after Trump took office on Jan. 20, aides said.
Trump had dispatched a U.S. government aircraft to Cairo to bring Hijazi and her family to Washington for this meeting.
The couple and their co-workers had been incarcerated since May 1, 2014, on child abuse and trafficking charges that were widely dismissed by human rights workers and U.S. officials as false. Virtually no evidence was ever presented against them, and for nearly three years they were held as hearings were inexplicably postponed and trial dates canceled. Human rights groups alleged that they were abused in detention.
The Obama administration unsuccessfully pressed Sissi’s government for their release. It was not until Trump moved to reset U.S. relations with Egypt by embracing Sissi at the White House on April 3…that Egypt’s posture changed. Last Sunday, a court in Cairo dropped all charges against Hijazi and the others.
What the White House plans to celebrate as vindication of its early diplomacy comes at the end of a week in which the administration has combated charges of foreign policy confusion.
Meanwhile, Sisi received US Defense Secretary James Mattis in Cairo to discuss boosting military cooperation between Washington and Cairo.
Mattis arrived in Cairo for a one day visit coming from Saudi Arabia, on a tour of the region that also includes Israel, Qatar and Djibiouti.
Presidential Spokesperson Alaa Youssef said the officials discussed the special and strategic ties binding the two countries, with El-Sisi affirming Egypt’s keenness to strengthen cooperation under the new administration of President Donald Trump.
…The Egyptian president focused on the pressing need to dry up funding for terrorism and convey a strict message to countries that support terror groups or supply them with fighters and/or arms.
Mattis expressed Washington’s desire to push cooperation between the two countries to new levels in order to overcome unprecedented challenges facing the region.
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