American woman to visit White House Friday after 33 months in Egyptian prison

Aya Hijazi, was flown back to the U.S. on Thursday on a U.S. military plane accompanied by a top White House official.


WASHINGTON, D.C.- An Egyptian-American woman detained in Egypt for nearly three years on human trafficking charges will meet President Trump and his daughter Ivanka today at the White House on Friday. Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American woman, as flown back to the United States on Thursday on a U.S. military plane, accompanied by a top White House official, a senior administration official said.

She was in Egypt helping poor children but was arrested on human trafficking charges during a Egyptian crackdown on activists. She sat in for three years despite her family garnering help from U.S. lawmakers and the Obama administration over the years.  She was finally  acquitted by a Cairo court on Sunday along with seven others who had worked with street children. Hijazi was released from jail on Tuesday.

MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY | Reuters

Aya Hijazi, founder of Belady, an organization that promotes a better life for street children, sits reading a book inside a holding cell as she faces trial on charges of human trafficking at a courthouse in Cairo, Egypt. Picture taken March 23, 2017.

She was flown to Joint Base Andrews, the U.S. military airfield in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

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 did not mention the case publicly when he met with Sisi., but did move to reset U.S. relations with Egypt, hosting Sisi for talks at the White House and giving him firm backing, including in the fight against Islamist militants.

U.S. officials had raised Hijazi's case with the Egyptians soon after Trump took office on Jan. 20, the official said.

Hijazi was accompanied on the flight by Dina Powell, the deputy White House national security adviser for strategy. Powell had been in the region traveling with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Hijazi, 30, 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.

Following her release, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday he was optimistic about improving military ties with Egypt after talks in Cairo with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, following a period of strain under the Obama administration.

"I left Cairo very confident, very confident in the avenues we have to advance our military-to-military relationship, which has been a bedrock and has stood solid all these years," Mattis told reporters in Tel Aviv, without elaborating.

A U.S. defense official said Mattis' meetings with Sisi and Egypt's defense minister had focused on building trust to allow for stronger military ties.

Trump's predecessor Barack Obama froze aid to Egypt for two years after Sisi, then a general, overthrew President Mohamed Mursi in mid-2013 after mass protests against Mursi's rule. Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, had been elected the previous year.

The Trump administration has proposed massive cuts to U.S. foreign aid, but has signaled that Egypt will continue to receive its $1.3 billion worth of annual military aid.

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

A statement from Sisi's office said Egypt was keen "on further advancing bilateral relations under the new American administration."


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