According to family members, Derrik Sweeney (COL ’13) will not be freed until Sunday though an Egyptian judge ordered Thursday morning that Sweeney and two other American students be released.
After a two-hour hearing Thursday, the Sweeney family’s understanding was that the students would be released that day. The hearing, which came after the students were questioned Tuesday night and again for over eight hours Wednesday, was to determine if the students should be charged.
Derrik Sweeney, along with Drexel University student Greg Porter and Indiana University student Luke Gates, was arrested Tuesday for allegedly participating in violent demonstrations in the city’s Tahrir Square. The three students were accused of throwing Molotov cocktails and clashing with police.
At the hearing, the judge decided not to charge the students, and instead to release them.
But after the students underwent required medical exams, Egyptian officials determined there was not enough time left in the work day to file necessary release paperwork. Friday and Saturday comprise the Egyptian weekend, so the Sweeney family expects the students to be released Sunday, the next work day in Egypt.
According to a statement posted on the AUC’s emergency news webpage, the three students are being held in a cell at the Kasr El Aini police station. Families of all three students have arranged for the students to depart Egypt when their release paperwork is completed.
An email sent to the AUC community also stated that several representatives of AUC’s office of International Student Affairs visited the students Thursday, and will continue to do so until their release.
For family members, who expected Sweeney to be released Thursday, news of the delay came as a disappointment.
“Frustrating is just the half of it, but at least they haven’t been charged and they have been ordered released,” Nicole Sweeney, Derrik’s sister, wrote in an email. “They are in much better conditions at this point too.”
Responding to the initial news that her son would be released Thursday, Joy Sweeney, Derrik’s mother, was ecstatic.
“We’re down to the last leg of the journey,” she said. “Everybody is elated.”
In a statement, Mark Toner, acting spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, wrote earlier Thursday that the department was still working to independently confirm the release of the three students and had been in contact with their family members.
“We appreciate the ongoing expeditious consideration of this case by the Egyptian authorities,” he wrote.
In a statement released this morning after false reports of the students’ release, University President John J. DeGioia wrote that he was grateful for the news and thanked those who worked to secure the freedom of Sweeney and the other two students.
“Our thoughts and prayers have been with the Sweeney family and the family and friends of the other two American students,” he wrote. “As we give thanks, we continue to keep them in our prayers.”
Joy Sweeney explained what she plans to do when her son finally does return home.
“Giving him a big hug and saying ‘I love you,'” she said. “Those are my first two moves.”
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