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3 American students arrested in Cairo leave Egypt

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) — Three American students arrested during a protest in Cairo caught flights out of Egypt early Saturday, according to an airport official and an attorney for one of the trio.

The three were arrested on the roof of a university building near Tahrir Square last Sunday. Officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters. On Thursday, a court ordered them released. All three were studying at the American University in Cairo.

Luke Gates, 21, and Derrik Sweeney, 19, left the Egyptian capital Saturday on separate flights to Frankfurt, Germany, an airport official in Cairo said. Gregory Porter, 19, also left the country, his attorney said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Attorney Theodore Simon, who represents Porter, a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said police escorted the three students to the Cairo airport Friday. Simon later said his client was on a flight.

"I am pleased and thankful to report that Gregory Porter is in the air. He has departed Egyptian airspace and is on his way home," Simon said, though he declined to say when Porter was expected back in the U.S.

Simon said he and Porter's mother both spoke by phone with the student, who is from the Philadelphia suburb of Glenside.

"He clearly conveyed to me ... that he was OK," Simon told The Associated Press.

Gates is a student at Indiana University. It wasn't clear when he was expected back in the U.S.

Joy Sweeney told the AP her son, a 19-year-old Georgetown University student from Jefferson City, Mo., would fly from Frankfurt to Washington, then on to St. Louis. She said family will meet him when he arrives late Saturday.

"I am ecstatic," Sweeney said Friday. "I can't wait for him to get home tomorrow night. I can't believe he's actually going to get on a plane. It is so wonderful."

Sweeney said she had talked with her son Friday afternoon and "he seemed jubilant."

"He thought he was going to be able to go back to his dorm room and get his stuff," she said. "We said, 'No, no, don't get your stuff, we just want you here.'"

The university will ship his belongings home, she said.

Sweeney had earlier said she did not prepare a Thanksgiving celebration this week because the idea seemed "absolutely irrelevant" while her son still was being held.

"I'm getting ready to head out and buy turkey and stuffing and all the good fixings so that we can make a good Thanksgiving dinner," she said Friday.

Associated Press writers Sandy Kozel in Washington; Kathy Matheson and Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia; and Dana Fields in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.

Earlier coverage:

By Jeff Haldiman, News Tribune

“We’re feeling so awesome we can’t stand it.”

Joy Sweeney said she wasn’t expecting her son Derrik to be coming home until Monday after being detained by Egyptian authorities who claim he and two other American students threw petrol bombs at police during uprisings in Cairo.

The three college students, who attend the American University in Cairo, were arrested Sunday on the roof of a university building near Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters.

An Egyptian court ordered their release Thursday.

Now, Derrick, 19, is scheduled to be home Sunday in Jefferson City.

“If all works out, he’ll be landing in St. Louis around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night,” she said. “We’re going to stay at the airport and then head back the next day.”

Sweeney and her family got word on Thanksgiving that Derrik would be released and that he was not facing any criminal charges.

Derrik and his fellow students were in Cairo studying at American University on a semester-long study-abroad program.

“His friends at Georgetown, where he’s going to school, have been calling us and wanting to know how he’s doing,” Sweeney said. “The president of the school has e-mailed us to keep us updated on what he knew.

“It’s been amazing the support he’s provided. Everybody has been so helpful. I attribute that to the prayerful work of our community.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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