On Friday, President Donald Trump met with an Egyptian-American woman for whom he had personally worked to secure her freedom. Aya Hijazi (30) had been imprisoned in Egypt for nearly three years. The dual US/Egyptian national visited Trump in the Oval Office shortly after returning to the United States on a military aircraft that had brought her from Cairo. “We are very happy to have Aya back home, and it’s a great honor to have her in the Oval Office,” Trump said.
Hijazi came with her brother to the White House meeting. Also in attendance were presidential aides Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Dina Powell, a National Security Council official who was born in Egypt. Trump had been informed early in his administration of the plight of Hijazi and her husband.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump had been “directly engaged behind the scenes” on behalf of  Hijazi. She was acquitted in an Egyptian court of charges that she had been engaged in human trafficking. Hijazi had been working to improve the lives of street children.
 
During an official visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Trump raised the issue of her imprisonment privately at the White House. Spicer said Trump “made it clear to the Egyptian government how important it was to him that this American be released and returned.”
 
"As far as the release of the American citizen, she was found innocent in the Egyptian courts, and appropriately she is returned home," Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters Friday in Tel Aviv. "We were happy to hear she was found innocent."
 
Hijazi was one of eight defendants, who included her Mohamed Hassanein, worked for the Belady Foundation until May 2014 when its offices were raided. Accused of child abuse and human trafficking, the defendants were held for nearly three years, gaining international attention. Human Rights Watch called it a "travesty of justice" in a report released in March. She and her co-defendants were accused of human trafficking, as well as seeking to indoctrinate the children in extremist Islam. She and the co-defendants have been exonerated.
 
Hijazi hails from Falls Church, Virginia. She graduated George Mason University and moved to Egypt for studies. She founded the Belady Foundation, which served to provide shelter and rehabilitation for street children. 
 
 


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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