PHILADELPHIA (AP) — At least one of three American students arrested during protests in Cairo arrived back in the U.S. Saturday evening, nearly three days after an Egyptian court ordered their release.
Gregory Porter, 19, was greeted by his parents and other relatives when he landed at Philadelphia International Airport. He and two other U.S. students had been arrested on the roof of a university building near Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square last Sunday after officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces.
Porter took no questions at the airport, but said he was thankful for the help he and the other two young men received from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, administrators at the university they were attending and attorneys in Egypt and the U.S.
"I’m just so thankful to be back, to be in Philadelphia right now," said Porter, who is from nearby Glenside, Pa., and attends Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Luke Gates, 21, and Derrik Sweeney, 19, left the Egyptian capital Saturday morning on separate connecting flights to Frankfurt, Germany, an airport official in Cairo said. The three were studying at the American University in Cairo.
Protests have been going on near Cairo’s central Tahrir Square since Nov. 19, in anticipation of the landmark parliamentary elections due to start Monday. On Friday, the crowd grew to more than 100,000 people, and thousands remained there Saturday.
Gates, who attends Indiana University, was in the air Saturday morning and expected to return to Bloomington, Ind., later in the day, university spokesman Mark Land said. He said he spoke to Gates’ father, Bill Gates, shortly after his son boarded a flight out of Egypt.
His parents haven’t disclosed information about Gates’ flights and are "really hopeful they can spend a little time with him without having to answer a lot of questions" in the spotlight, Land said.
Joy Sweeney told the AP that her son, a 19-year-old Georgetown University student from Jefferson City, Mo., would fly from Frankfurt to Washington, then on to St. Louis. She said family will meet him when he arrives at the airport late Saturday.
"I am ecstatic," Sweeney said Friday. "I can’t believe he’s actually going to get on a plane. It is so wonderful."
Sweeney said she had talked with her son Friday afternoon and "he seemed jubilant."
"He thought he was going to be able to go back to his dorm room and get his stuff," she said. "We said, ‘No, no, don’t get your stuff, we just want you here."’
The university will ship his belongings home, she said.
Sweeney had earlier said she did not prepare a Thanksgiving celebration this week because the idea seemed "absolutely irrelevant" while her son still was being held.
"I’m getting ready to head out and buy turkey and stuffing and all the good fixings so that we can make a good Thanksgiving dinner," she said Friday.