Egypt orders release of 3 American students arrested at protest

Egyptian prosecutors announced Thursday that the three American college students detained over the weekend for allegedly throwing molotov cocktails at riot police have been ordered released, Egyptian state media reported.

Derrik Sweeney, 19, of Jefferson City, Mo.; Gregory Porter, 19, of Glenside, Pa.; and Luke Gates, 21, of Bloomington, Ind., were accused of joining Egyptian protesters who have been clashing with riot police near Tahrir Square since Saturday.

Sweeney attends Georgetown University, Porter attends Drexel University in Philadelphia and Gates attends Indiana University. The three are currently studying at the American University in Cairo.

A report by the state-run Middle East News Agency said the students denied owning a backpack containing molotov cocktails that was confiscated by police when the three were detained. They told authorities the bag belonged to Egyptian classmates, MENA said.

“I just can’t express my elation right now,” said Sweeney’s mother, Joy, of Jefferson City. “We have so many blessings in our lives with our four children,” she said Thursday morning by phone. “It’s just unbelievable right now. We’re so happy.

I won’t be able to stop hugging him. . . . I’m so happy right now I can’t even express my joy. He’s just such a positive kid. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about everything.”

Gates’s father, George, said he, too, was overjoyed at the news.

“We’re just ecstatic,” he said from his home in Bloomington. “The State Department called this morning. . . . They said a judge had ordered them released. . . . They’re being processed out now.

“We have him on a flight home” Friday, the father said. “He’s excited about coming home. . . . I don’t know how I can thank everybody so much for all their help and love and support.”

Details about when the students would be processed for release and return to the United States were unclear Thursday.

Theodore Simon, Porter’s attorney, said the Egyptian government had initially sought an additional 15-day detention after the interrogation and investigation of the three young men. But after Simon’s colleague in Egypt objected, a court granted his request for release, and the prosecution agreed not to appeal the decision, Simon said.

“What we have in place right now is a court order requiring their release, which needless to say the [Porter] family here is extraordinarily appreciative and thankful for,” Simon said.

Joy Sweeney said she had been up most of the night getting reports of the legal proceedings in Egypt. She was told the release process, which includes an examination by a doctor, would take several hours.

“I was just praying and praying,” she said. “Thanksgiving. Not that we don’t have a lot of blessings already, but we can just add this one.”

Ruane reported from Washington. Staff writer Caitlin Gibson in Washington contributed to this report.

Ernesto Londoño covers the Pentagon for the Washington Post.
Mike is a general assignment reporter who also covers Washington institutions and historical topics.
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