During their meeting on the sidelines of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the release of Egyptian-American Aya Hegazy (also spelled as Higazi).
“Secretary Clinton emphasized the importance of respect for rule of law and human rights to Egypt’s future progress,” said Clinton’s campaign in a press release.
“Secretary Clinton called for the release of U.S. citizen Aya Hijazi and raised concerns about prosecution of Egyptian human rights organizations and activists.”
It is unclear whether President Sisi commented on the case during his meeting with Clinton. However, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Sisi responded to a question related to the case stating that Egypt has to “obey the legal framework in [the] country”.
“We must respect the rule of law,” said Sisi when Rose stated that Hegazy “is not a threat to Egypt’s security” and “not a terrorist”.
Hegazy and her husband Mohamed Hassanein have been detained for around 28 months, passing the two-year legal term in the Egyptian penal code. Hegazy and Hassanein were arrested three months into operating their NGO, Belady, which served children in street conditions. They face charges of human trafficking, abduction, inciting homosexuality, and sexual abuse for pornography, among other accusations. The charges were denied by the forensic report on children inspected.
On Thursday, Hegazy’s family and two Virginia congressmen raised the case Capitol Hill press conference, according to the Associated Press. The next day, the White House released a statement from the National Security Council calling “on the Government of Egypt to drop all charges against Hijazi and release her from prison”.
In response to the White House, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry rejected interference with “the independent judiciary”. The Ministry, in an apparent attempt of ridicule, called for the release of Egyptian defendants in US prisons.
Up to 25 Egyptian NGOs and human rights organizations have called on the couple’s release, including the Egyptian Coalition for Children’s Rights, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. The 25 organizations collectively recently condemned the “continued suppression of volunteer action and the quashing of youth and civil society initiatives.”