A US medical student detained without trial in an Egyptian prison for nearly 500 days has been freed and returned home, the US Department of State said on Monday.
The release of Mohamed Amashah from Jersey City, New Jersey, who holds dual Egyptian-American citizenship, followed months of pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, according to the Freedom Initiative group, which advocated on his behalf.
“We welcome the release of US citizen Mohamed Amashah from Egyptian custody, and thank Egypt for its cooperation in his repatriation,” the State Department said.
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch said he had personally raised the issue of “unjustly detained Americans” with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week.
Like thousands of political prisoners in Egypt, Amashah, 24, had been held in pre-trial detention on charges of “misusing social media” and “aiding a terrorist group,” Freedom Initiative said.
Under counterterrorism laws, state prosecutors have used these vague charges to renew 15-day pretrial detention periods for months or years, often with evidence.
In March last year, Amashah stood alone in Cairo’s Tahrir Square holding an Arabic sign that read: “Freedom for all the political prisoners.” He was swiftly arrested and sent to Cairo’s Tora prison complex, where he remained for 16 months.
Protesting has been illegal under Egyptian law since 2013.
In March, as COIVID-19 spread in Egypt and raised the specter of unchecked contagion in the country’s crowded prisons, Amashah and fellow inmates began a hunger strike to protest their unjust imprisonment, the Freedom Initiative said, adding that he Amashah suffers from asthma and an autoimmune disease, making him particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Before boarding a flight to Dulles International Airport in Virginia late on Sunday, Amashah relinquished his Egyptian citizenship as a condition of his release.
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