Memo to the Egyptian authorities: Feel free to keep them.
THREE American students have been arrested during protests in Cairo.
The male students were arrested on the roof of a university building, where an Egyptian official claims they were throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters near Tahrir Square.
Derrik Sweeney, 19, Luke Gates, 21, and Gregory Porter, 19, who are studying at the American University in Cairo, were questioned today by an Egyptian prosecutor with a US Embassy official present, university spokeswoman Morgan Roth said.
Roth said the students had been held by Egyptian authorities since their arrest on Monday but she did not know whether they had been formally charged.
It wasn’t unusual for American students to get “caught up” in Egyptian politics, she said.
Sweeney’s mother, Joy Sweeney, and Gates’ father, Bill Gates, said they had been in contact officials from the US Embassy but had little information so far about their sons.
“I don’t think anybody really knows what to expect,” Bill Gates said.
The parents said Sweeney and Gates had been in Cairo since August, studying Arabic along with other subjects.
Assil Dayri, 17, of Geneva, Switzerland, an American University student who is friends with Derrik Sweeney and Luke Gates, said they left the university on Monday evening to see what was going on Tahrir Square.
By 3.30am Tuesday local time, he got a call that they were being taken away by people they didn’t know and that they didn’t know where they were going, he said. Then the phone cut off.
He said he’s confident his friends were not throwing firebombs as Egyptian officials have said but neither know Arabic well enough to communicate with Egyptian police.
“I think it’s a big misunderstanding,” Dayri said by telephone.
He said he’d heard claims authorities found a backpack containing explosives that belonged to Sweeney, but it wasn’t his.
Sweeney’s mommy says he believes in democracy. Funny, but I don’t think throwing firebombs is all that democratic.
Still, Joy Sweeney said she wasn’t surprised he went.
“He got caught up in the whole college-change-the-world mentality, and he believes in democracy strongly,” she said today.