The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused US officials of disparaging remarks, stating on Sunday: “Some American bodies insist on disrespecting the principle of law enforcement in Egypt to the extent of demanding that a suspect be released and charges be dropped simply for having US citizenship.”
The ministry’s statement referred to comments made earlier this week by US representative Don Beyer in which he requested that Egyptian authorities release Aya Hegazy, the founder of Beladi Foundation for Street Children, who has been detained since May 2014, along with her husband, pending trial.
Hegazy holds a dual Egyptian-US citizenship and had come to Egypt from the US. She was arrested after reported claims that, through her foundation, she was exploiting homeless children for political motives, such as paying them to participate in protests.
A few months before her arrest, Hegazy appeared in a full interview with the local ONTV channel, along with some of the children she had helped rehabilitate in Beladi Foundation.
During the show, the children gave positive accounts of their experiences. After Hegazy’s arrest, other interviewed children claimed to have been paid in exchange of participating in political protests.
The US representative met with Hegazy’s family on Thursday to discuss the conditions of their daughter’s detention.
“No evidence has been produced to support the allegations’’ leveled against Hegazy, Beyer said, adding that the “prolonged detention violates Egypt’s own laws, guaranteeing a speedy trial”.
But the Egyptian ministry condemned the allegations, stating that Hegazy is accused of violating the law and using street children. The ministry then demanded that in return, Egyptian prisoners held in the US be released and charges against them be dropped.
The ministry has often rejected foreign reports or comments made about Egypt, sometimes refusing to comment.
Hegazy’s defence lawyer refused to give political comments on the case or evaluate either side’s claims. However, speaking to Daily News Egypt on Monday, lawyer Taher Abol Nasr asserted that Hegazy never had planned to employ her American nationality in her favour throughout the case.
Regarding Hegazy’s prolonged detention, Abol Nasr said that pre-trial detention remains a disputed issue in Egypt, as two legal texts of the Criminal Codes procedures contradict each other.
On the one hand, Article 143, which is more recent, sets a maximum period of two years for detention amid an ongoing trial. On the other hand, Article 380 allows the court to extend a suspect’s detention. No supreme court has yet ruled in the matter, according to the lawyer.
“Take for instance the defendants in the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal case, who have been in detention pending trial for three years now,” explained Abol Nasr, who is also defending photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid ‘Shawkan’ in the case.
“To me, both Hegazy and Shawkan’s prolonged detentions are illegal,” Aboul Nasr concluded.