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Exclusive: Aya Hijazi on her surprising meeting with President Trump after release from Egypt prison

BY   May 26, 2017 at 4:49 PM EDT
Aya Hijazi

Aya Hijazi, who spent three years as a political prisoner in Egypt, spoke with PBS NewsHour Judy Woodruff. Photo by Abbey Oldham

In an exclusive interview with PBS Newshour, Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American charity worker imprisoned in Cairo for three years, speaks about the harrowing ordeal and her experience meeting President Trump in the Oval Office following her release last month. It is her first interview since an Egyptian judge acquitted Aya, along with her husband Mohamed and their co-workers, of child abuse and human trafficking charges. Many observers and U.S officials dismissed those allegations as fabricated and politically motivated.

Aya’s case, which PBS Newshour covered last year, raised global awareness of Egypt’s brutal crackdown on civil society and political expression. President Trump quietly negotiated her release with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, and has pointed to the case as a vindication of his “America First” diplomacy and de-emphasis on human rights diplomacy.

Immediately upon Aya’s release, Trump sent a U.S government plane to bring Ayaand her family back to the United States for an Oval Office meeting. Aya told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodfuff about a surprising moment during that meeting in the video below.

Aya’s successful release was a key foreign policy win for the Trump administration.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday that Trump “directly engaged behind the scenes” to secure Hijazi’s release and raised the issue with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Watch the PBS NewsHour for our interview with Aya Hijazi.

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