Aya Hijazi, an aid worker who is Egyptian-American was welcomed on Friday by President Donald Trump after being freed after three years of detention in Egypt. The White House had quietly worked on securing her release earlier in the week, said White House officials.
Trump said everyone was very pleased that Aya was back home and it was an honor having her visit the Oval Office. Trump spoke during a brief opportunity for photos and less than one full day after a plane from the U.S. government had landed in Washington with her aboard.
Hijazi, who has dual Egyptian and American citizenship and attended Virginia’s George Mason University, was arrested in 2014 in Egypt on charges of human trafficking and child abuse.
Human rights organizations mocked the charges against Hijazi along with her husband, who was working with the Beladi Foundation, a NGO founded by Hijazi that cares for Cairo’s street children.
Her case was a symbol for how aid workers were treated by the President Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi’s government now in power in Egypt.
The Trump administration immediately took credit for going behind the scenes and getting Hijazi freed along with other aid workers.
The charges against all of the workers were eventually dropped last Sunday in an Egyptian courtroom.
Press secretary of the White House Sean Spicer said President Trump had directed his team in charge of national security to work on securing the freedom of Hijazi.
Spicer said Trump even spoke privately with President el-Sisi when the two met earlier this month about Hijazi.
The meeting with el-Sisi was a warming up of relations between Egypt and the U.S. and could have played some part in Hijazi being released.
Former President Barack Obama did not allow el-Sisi to visit the White House due to his reputation of human rights violations since taking power in 2013 via military takeover.
Spicer as well as other officials in the White House would not give specific actions that the government had taken to get the charges against Hijazi and the others dropped.
The verdict in the case of Hijazi was scheduled originally to be heard March 23, but at the last minute was postponed until this past Sunday, which raised the possibility that el-Sisi may have accepted the embrace by the White House in exchange for the prisoner who was likely to be freed anyway by the country’s court system.
It was not clear if pressure from any other sources, including Congress might have aided in persuading authorities in Egypt to release Hijazi.