Egyptian court orders release of 3 U.S. students

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A court in Egypt has ordered the release of three U.S. students arrested during a protest in Cairo, a lawyer confirmed Thursday.

Derrik Sweeney, Luke Gates and Gregory Porter, who attend the American University in Cairo, were arrested on the roof of a university building near the city’s Tahrir Square on Sunday. Officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters.

Attorney Ted Simon, who represents the 19-year-old Porter, said he is still waiting to learn whether the students have been set free.

Sweeney’s mother, Joy Sweeney, said she is “absolutely elated” at the news of her 19-year-old son’s release.

“I can’t wait to give him a huge hug and tell him how much I love him,” she said, adding that the news of the court order was the best Thanksgiving gift.

Earlier Thursday, Egypt officials said a court had ordered the students’ release. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. They did not say when the students would be released.

Joy Sweeney said she wasn’t sure when her son would be returning home to Missouri.

“If he can find his passport (then he’ll leave) tomorrow, if not, it won’t be until Monday,” she said.

Sweeney said she had not prepared for a Thanksgiving celebration and that the idea of a holiday feast had seemed “absolutely irrelevant” before the news of her son’s pending release.

She said she thought her son would make something useful of his arrest.

“I’m sure that he’ll put a life-lesson learning experience into a positive story,” Sweeney said.

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Associated Press reporter Ed Donahue in Washington contributed to this report. Michael reported from Cairo.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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