PHILADELPHIA (AP) — 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 Theodore Simon, who represents Porter, a 19-year-old student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said his client remained in custody at a police station as of Thursday afternoon Eastern time.
But Simon said he was able to speak by phone with Porter, describing the student’s demeanor as "calm and measured, demonstrating a maturity well beyond his 19 years."
"He was extremely thankful and appreciative for our efforts and the unconditional support of his mother and father," Simon said.
Porter is from Glenside, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia.
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.
The State Department released a statement saying it was trying to independently confirm the reports of the students’ release.
Earlier Thursday, Egypt officials said the Abdeen Court in Cairo had ordered their 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.
In Bloomington, Ind., a spokesman for Indiana University, said he could not confirm that Gates and the other has already been freed. Mark Land earlier said he had spoken to Gates’ parents and that they had been told by the State Department that their son has been 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.
She said the U.S. consul general in Egypt, Roberto Powers, recommended that her son leave Egypt as soon as possible.
"He also conveyed that that was what Derrik had conveyed to him that he wanted to do. He was enjoying his experience but (was) ready to be done with it," Sweeney 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."