US defense secretary looks to rebuild trust in Egypt visit

Apr 21, 2017, 22:57

President Donald Trump welcomed Aya Hijazi, the Egyptian-American aid worker he and his administration personally helped free from a prison in Egypt and bring back to the USA, to the White House Friday morning.

Hijazi, an Egyptian who holds USA citizenship, was acquitted by a Cairo court on Sunday along with seven others who had worked with street children.

President Donald Trump and his aides worked for several weeks with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to secure the freedom of Aya Hijazi, 30, a US citizen, as well as her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, who is Egyptian, and four other humanitarian workers.

The breakthrough in Hijazi's case comes after the president earlier this month welcomed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House.

Details of the release, which were first reported by The Washington Post and later confirmed by CNN, include that it was facilitated through meetings between Defense Secretary James Mattis and Egyptian President al-Sissi.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

Hijazi is scheduled to meet Trump at the White House on Friday.

Human rights organizations denounced Egyptian authorities for leveling what they say were "bogus" charges against Hijazi and the other five defendants. The strikes launched by the Egyptian Air Forces have also damaged four vehicles owned by the terrorist group.

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The visit came after a meeting between Sisi and his US counterpart Donald Trump at White House earlier this month. Working closely with the Trump administration was very important for my family at this critical time. But it has sometimes been a relationship from which the USA receives little in return, and Trump has said he will not tolerate imbalances in other partnerships, as with China and many European allies. Mattis' visit symbolizes a distinct warming of relations between the US and Egypt in contrast to the Obama administration.

An attorney for Aya Hijazi, 30, thanked President Donald Trump for helping to secure her release.

Hijazi, 30, was flown to Joint Base Andrews, the US military airfield near Washington.

Sisi told Mattis that he hoped to continue their talks over military cooperation which started during the Egyptian leader's visit to Washington, MENA quoted Egyptian Presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef as saying.

Trump, however, has set aside criticism of Sissi's human rights record while pledging to maintain support for the key United States ally which receives an annual $1.3 billion in military aid.

Former President Barack Obama had worked on the case and "got zippo", Trump noted.

The Obama administration temporarily suspended a $1.3-billion aid package to the country after Sisi and the military seized power from the elected government led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which took office after the ouster of longtime Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.

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