An Egyptian-American charity worker returned home to the Washington, D.C. area Thursday night after spending three years in an Egyptian jail over what human rights groups say were bogus charges.
A freed Aya Hijazi got the opportunity Friday morning to shake hands with President Donald Trump, who her lawyer said helped to secure her release.
“First and foremost, there have been countless number of people advocating for Aya Hijazi’s freedom,” Wade McMullen told NBC News. “I think Trump and his team deserve credit for making this a priority at the most critical time in her case.”
Hijazi, 30, and her brother met with Trump at the White House in a visit that included Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Dina Powell, an Egyptian-American and Trump’s deputy national security adviser for strategy.
“We are very happy to have Aya Hijazi back home, and it’s a great honor to have her in the Oval Office with her brother and thank you very much,” the president said with Hijazi smiling beside him.
The breakthrough in Hijazi’s case comes after the president earlier this month welcomed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House. Trump told Sisi: “You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me.” Their meeting apparently set the stage for Hijazi’s release.
As the founders of the Belady Foundation, a non-governmental organization that looks after Cairo street children, Hijazi and her husband were arrested in 2014 as part of Sisi’s crackdown on those opposing him as well as more liberal and secular activists.