US father urges action over son's detention in Egypt

US father urges action over son's detention in Egypt
3 min read
22 April, 2017
The family of a teenager jailed in Egypt question why the US government is not applying the same pressure that was used to secure aid worker Aya Hijazi's release.
Ahmed Hassan reportedly stays in a jail cell with around 20 other inmates [Hassan family]
The family of a 17-year-old American teenager who has been in detention in Egypt since December have called on the US government to work harder to secure his release.

Ahmed Hassan was arrested on December 1, when police went to a house in the city of Zagazig where the youth had been staying with family. According to the teenager's lawyers, the police had come to arrest his uncle for a minor offence.

After a dispute between the police and members of Hassan's family, the teenager was arrested along with six relatives. According to Hassan's father, Mohamed Mostafa, they were then sentenced to a year in prison for resisting authorities.

"Why is there no pressure for Ahmed's case? Is there a difference between people working in human rights and a normal citizen?" Mostafa said following the release of aid worker Aya Hijazi and her husband, who were freed by Egyptian authorities and arrived back in the US on Thursday.

A hearing that would reconsider Hassan's sentence had been scheduled for April 19, however was postponed until July 16 because authorities were unable to securely transport him to court, Mostafa told NBC News.

"I went with the lawyer to see the judge overseeing Ahmed’s case and begged him to set an earlier date to look into his reconsideration, but he refused," Mostafa said.

Mostafa says that his son is staying in a cell packed with other people who Hassan pays so that he can have a small space in the cell to sleep on.

"I am in a jail cell with more than 20 adults. It is scary to be here with these people and the police," Hassan wrote in a letter to US President Donald Trump in March.

"Mr President, please help me. I want to be with my family and friends. I am proud to be an American. I beg you to defend my right to be free."

After his arrest, Hassan was mocked by Egyptian authorities who insisted on recording his nationality as Egyptian.

"They made fun of him and said 'they [the US government] will do nothing for you,'" a lawyer working on the case said.

According to Mostafa, the response from US authorities so far has been a "disappointment."

"The person who came from the US embassy didn’t even see where Ahmed is jailed. They meet him only at the office and said: 'We don't attend the questioning, we only follow up after.'

"I am American. I have the right to be defended and protected. Otherwise, what's the reason to be an American citizen?" he said.

On Thursday, President Trump hosted American aid worker Aya Hijazi in the Oval Office, following the US citizen's release from custody in Egypt.

Hijazi had been held for almost three years over charges related to child abuse. An Egyptian court acquitted Hijazi and six others earlier this week.

According to reports, secret negotiations had taken place between the Trump administration and Cairo over her release, which was put down as a priority early on in Trump's presidency.

For Hassan's family what looms is further uncertainty. Hijazi's case, Mostafa says, shows that Egypt can be pressured to positive effect. He added, however, that it was "hypocritical" that the same pressure was not being used by US authorities in his son's case.