Trump 'ordered Sisi' to release US-Egyptian charity worker

Trump 'ordered Sisi' to release US-Egyptian charity worker

US President Donald Trump demanded that Egypt ruler Abdel Fattah al-Sisi release a US-Egyptian charity worker Aya Hijazi, who was accused of human trafficking and sexually abusing children.
2 min read
19 April, 2017
Aya Hejazi's case drew alarm from Washington and international rights groups [Getty]

US President Donald Trump reportedly ordered Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to release a US-Egyptian charity worker accused of human trafficking and sexually abusing children.

Trump explicitly told Sisi to release Aya Hijazi - who was acquitted on Sunday after three years in pretrial detention - during the leaders' meeting two weeks ago, a Washington-based Egyptian diplomat told The New Arab.

Trump did not publicly mention the case when he met with Sisi, but a senior White House official said ahead of the meeting that the case would be addressed.

"The new administration doesn't care about human rights abuses in Egypt - unlike its predecessor - which has put Sisi at ease to finally solve the Hijazi case," the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

"Trump's biggest concern is not having US citizens imprisoned and he told this explicitly to Sisi."

"This shows that Trump's power over court rulings in Egypt will be limited to US citizens and individual cases," he said.

He added that the court had purposely delayed the deliverance of Hijazi's ruling until Sisi had returned from Washington.

Hijazi, who co-founded a charity which helps Cairo street children, was arrested in May 2014 and has been in jail pending the outcome of the trial.

She and her co-defendants denied the charges and rights groups raised concerns they were not being allowed a fair trial.

Former US President Barack Obama had been a harsh critic of Sisi's notoriously poor human rights record.

Since toppling President Mohamad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013, Sisi's government has cracked down hard on opposition, killing hundreds of Brotherhood supporters and jailing thousands.

The crackdown on dissent has also included liberal activists.

Hijazi's supporters say she was targeted at a time when authorities were cracking down on civil society groups and protests, trying to paint protesters as paid agents of foreign powers.

A judge from Cairo's appeals court told The New Arab that intervention from the executive in judicial affairs has become commonplace in Egypt since the 2013 military coup.

The judge gave the example of Australian Al Jazeera reporter Peter Greste who was released in September 2015 after Sisi issued him a presidential pardon.

Greste along with two Egyptian colleagues had been arrested in 2013 on trumped-up
charges of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood and broadcasting false news.