US citizen released from Egyptian jail after 10 months


Egyptian-American Reem Desouky was released from prison Sunday, according to the Freedom Initiative, an organization that advocated on her behalf. She and her son Moustafa returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, late Sunday night.

"We at Freedom Initiative and her family and friends are ecstatic about her return and would like to extend our gratitude to members of Congress, civil society organizations, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Vice President's Office for fighting the Desouky case," the organization said in a statement released Monday . "Her release is welcome progress and a step forward in the right direction that we hope is built upon for the liberation of others."

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Desouky spent 301 days in jail, according to the Freedom Initiative. She was jailed after being remanded in custody and questioned upon arrival at Cairo airport in July 2019. At that time, Moustafa released a series of videos Pray for anyone, including President Donald Trump, to help secure the mother's freedom.

The US State Department welcomed the news of Desouky's release.

& # 39; Time is the essence & # 39;

Other US citizens and residents, including Khaled Hassan, Mohamed Amashah, Ola Al-Qaradawi and Hosam Khalaf, remain imprisoned in Egypt – their situation became all the more vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Hassan, a limousine driver who had lived in New York, was remanded in custody and disappeared for four months from January 2018 and attempted suicide in July 2019, according to Human Rights Watch. Amashah, an American-Egyptian medical student, was arrested in March 2019 on his way home from class in Cairo. He began a hunger strike in May 2020. Al-Qaradawi and Khalaf, both US legal residents, have been jailed in Egypt since June 2017. In February their daughter Aayah Khalaf told CNN she was seriously worried about them.

Aayah Khalaf was among several family members who wrote to Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in late April, calling for the release of their loved ones – U.S. citizens, residents and those with "strong ties to the United States" – from Egyptian internment.

"We are writing to you to express our deep concern about the treatment of family members in Egypt and the risk to their lives from Covid 19," they said in the letter. "Time is the essence and action is required now before the disease spreads beyond the ability of Egyptian authorities to control."

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In a statement on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Morgan Ortagus said the Egyptian government had suspended all prison visits because of the risk of coronavirus, but "the US Embassy in Cairo has requested and been allowed to talk to imprisoned US citizens by telephone until we can resume in personal visits. "

"As Secretary Pompeo and other officials have noted, we expect that all governments around the world will keep internally detained US citizens safe and provide appropriate consular access at all times, but even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.

In January American Mustafa Kassem died of heart failure amid a hunger strike after more than six years in an Egyptian prison. On Saturday, a 24-year-old Egyptian filmmaker died in prison after spending two years in custody on charges of directing a video that mocked President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, his lawyer, Ahmad El Khawaga, told CNN.

CNN's Zeena Saifi contributed to this report.

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