A three-year old wait for Egyptian-American charity worker Aya Hijazi, 30, who had been imprisoned, came to an end when an Egyptian court acquitted her. Hijazi and her husband had established a foundation to aid street children in 2013, but were arrested on charges of child abuse in 2014. Six others were also arrested along with the couple. Hijazi was released late Tuesday, two days after the court acquitted her of the charges, the lawyer, Taher Abol Nasr told the Associated Press.
Government prosecutors accused the couple of human trafficking and sexually abusing children in their care, potential charges that carried sentences ranging from five years’ hard labor to life in prison. It was not immediately clear whether her co-defendants were also released, reports said.
The verdict regarding Hijazi's release came in less than two weeks after Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, visited Washington and was praised by President Donald Trump, who said: “He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.” Senior American officials had informed Hijazi’s relatives that they had initiated her case during Sisi’s visit, her brother Basel Hijazi said in a phone interview from Ireland. But they did not know if it had been addressed directly when the leaders met face to face. “To be honest, we are just happy that she is out,” her brother said. “Everything that is going on internationally is irrelevant," the New York Times reported.
Evan as human rights groups and U.S. officials had dismissed the charges of child abuse against Hijazi and her husband, the arrests of the couple came as part of a wider crackdown on civil society especially following the military overthrow of an elected president Mohammed Morsi in 2013, reports said.
It is still uncertain whether Hijazi would stay in Egypt after her release. Hijazi grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, received a degree in conflict resolution from George Mason University in 2009. After that, she left for Cairo, where she met her future husband, Mohamed Hassanein, in Tahrir Square during the country’s 2011 revolution. After being disappointed with violent and unstable policits of Egypt, the couple used their wedding fund to start a not-for-profit, Belady, which offered a refuge for homeless children, the Guardian reported.