Egyptian court orders release of 3 US students

November 24, 2011 10:35:36 AM PST
A court in Egypt has ordered the release of three American students arrested during a protest in Cairo, a lawyer in Philadelphia confirmed Thursday.

Derrik Sweeney, Luke Gates and Gregory Porter, who attend the American University in Cairo, were arrested on the roof of a university building near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square on Sunday. Officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters.

Attorney Ted Simon, who represents Porter, a 19-year-old student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said he is still waiting to find out if the students actually have been set free.

Sweeney's mother, Joy Sweeney, said she is "absolutely elated" at the news of her 19-year-old son's release.

"I can't wait to give him a huge hug and tell him how much I love him," she said, adding that the news of the court order was the best Thanksgiving gift.

The 21-year-old Gates is a student of Indiana University.

Earlier Thursday, Egypt officials said a court had ordered the students' release. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. They did not say when the students would be released.

Joy Sweeney said she wasn't sure when her son, a student at Georgetown University, would be returning to their home in Jefferson City, Mo.

"If he can find his passport (then he'll leave) tomorrow, if not, it won't be until Monday," she said.

Derrik Sweeney interned for U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., earlier this year. Luetkemeyer's spokesman Paul Sloca, said the congressman is "extremely pleased that he's safe and coming home, especially on Thanksgiving."

Sweeney said she had not prepared for a Thanksgiving celebration, although a friend had taken her some food. She said the idea of a Thanksgiving feast had seemed "absolutely irrelevant" before the news of her son's pending freedom.

Asked what she thought her son would take away from his arrest, Sweeney said she thought he would make something useful of it.

"I'm sure that he'll put a life-lesson learning experience into a positive story," Sweeney said. "He's a writer, he will write about this experience."

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Associated Press reporter Ed Donahue in Washington contributed to this report. Maggie Michael reported from Cairo.


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