Egypt: Aya Hijazi acquitted after years in detention
Egyptian-US citizen spent nearly three years in detention over accusations related to her NGO helping street children.
A court in Egypt has acquitted Aya Hijazi, a dual US-Egyptian citizen, after nearly three years of detention over accusations related to running a foundation dedicated to helping street children.
The court on Sunday also found Hijazi’s husband and six others not guilty, according to an AFP news agency correspondent.
Egyptian authorities arrested the defendants in May 2014 on charges of abusing children in Hijazi’s care at the offices of the Belady Foundation – which the charity worker co-founded with her husband in 2013 – and engaging in human trafficking, kidnapping, sexual exploitation and torture.
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Local human rights groups said the charges were fabricated and part of a crackdown by Egypt’s government on civil society groups.
The trial was delayed multiple times on what human rights groups said were absurd pretexts, such as the inability to turn on a computer at a court hearing.
The defence argued that evidence may have been tampered with and several prosecution witnesses later recanted their testimonies.
Human Rights Watch last month said that Hijazi and her co-defendants had been denied private meetings with lawyers and were being held in “arbitrary detention”.
The trial “has been nothing less than a travesty of justice”, HRW deputy Middle East and North Africa Joe Stork said at the time.
Hijazi’s lawyer told reporters after Sunday’s verdict that all the defendants would be freed in the coming days.