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The New Arab

Egypt rejects US calls to release 'street child' activist

Egyptian authorities accuse Higazi of abusing children in her care [Facebook]

Date of publication: 19 September, 2016

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Egypt has rejected calls from the White House to release Egyptian-American dual citizen, Aya Higazi, jailed on charges of "sexually exploiting street children."

Egypt has rejected calls from the White House to release an Egyptian-US dual citizen jailed on charges of "sexually exploiting street children."

Egypt's foreign ministry said on Sunday that calls for the release of activist Aya Higazi, who was detained in Egypt while doing humanitarian work and has been held in prison for over two years without trial, was an attempt to undermine its legal system.

"We condemn the insistence of some official circles in the US to attempt to undermine the rule of law… to the extent that they demand the release of a defendant on the sole basis that they are a US citizen," an online ministry statement read.

"In return, we demand the release of Egyptian prisoners in the US, as well as dropping charges against them."

On Friday, the White House released a statement calling for Higazi's release after meeting with her family.

"The United States calls on the Government of Egypt to drop all charges against Higazi and release her from prison," it said.

On Thursday, Higazi's family and two northern Virginia congressmen called for her release at a Capitol Hill press conference.

Higazi's sister, Alaa Higazi, called the charges against her sister "absolutely absurd and unfounded. The charges only make sense in the context of the Egyptian government's campaign against intellectuals, academics and others that it deems a threat to its authority."

Hijazi, 29, who grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, received a degree in conflict resolution from George Mason University in 2009, and then returned to Egypt.

She was running a foundation there called Belady dedicated to helping street children when she and her husband, Mohammed Hassanein, were arrested in May 2014.

Egyptian authorities accuse Higazi of abusing children in her care and engaging in human trafficking, kidnapping, sexual exploitation, torture and inciting street children to join pro-Muslim Brotherhood protests.

In May, a group of Egyptian NGOs condemned Higazi's detention, and the regime's practice of continued pre-trial detention.

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