Derrik Sweeney, Georgetown student, arrested in Cairo
The family of a Georgetown student arrested in Egypt say they briefly spoke with their son by phone Wednesday morning.
Derrik Sweeney, 19, of Jefferson City, Mo., and two other American college students are accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at Egyptian authorities during clashes between Egyptian military and demonstrators in Cairo.
Sweeney's father Kevin said his son denied throwing anything off the roof of a building where he and two other college students were watching when demonstrations were arrested.
"I don't believe he would intentionally try to harm anybody. He might have been with people who had them or threw them. I don't but that does not sound like anything my son would do,” Derrik’s mother Joy Sweeney said.
Egyptian authorities questioned the students Wednesday with State Department officials present but have filed on charges. A hearing will be held Thursday, Sweeney's sister said on Twitter.
“It’s a chance for us to check on the welfare of the individuals… and a chance to make sure they are being kept safely,” said Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the State Department.
Sweeney told his parents the students’ treatment had improved in the past 24 hours. They're expected to be questioned further.
The students arrested were attending American University in Cairo. A video broadcast on state television showed them lined up against a wall with university identification cards.
Twenty-nine people have been killed and thousands injured in protests over the weekend as citizens demand a transition from military to civilian rule. A military council has taken over power since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted by demonstrators in February.
The three students were detained for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at authorities during the ongoing demonstrations.
“This image that they're trying to portray is not him. We really hope he can come home soon,” said Nicole Sweeney, Derrik’s sister.
“Thank you to everyone for all of your support - especially those of you who have called your congressman on his behalf,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
A New York-based spokeswoman for the American University of Cairo, Morgan Roth, identified the other two arrested students as Gregory Porter of Bloomington, Ind., and Luke Gates, both students at Indiana University.
On the next page: Sweeney's family is worried, but hopeful
Sweeney served as an intern in Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer's (R-Mo.) office this past spring, ABC7 has learned. Luetkemeyer's press secretary said the Congressman has reached out to the State Department in an effort to assist Sweeney.
The official said Luetkemeyer's office is "working to gather as much information as possible and to make sure he's safe and is being treated fairly."
Sweeney's mother Joy described him as a principled person who stands up for his beliefs. He attended previous protests but stopped after a demonstration where dozens were killed, she said. He had assured his family the violence wasn't near him and he was safe.
“He is extremely pacifist and has always, even as a young child, supported peaceful resolution and conversation, and he would never do anything to inflict violence on someone else,” Joy Sweeney said.
Sweeney, described as a good student, is studying Arabic and psychology.
“I don't believe he is a person who did that, must have been taken wrongly,” said his Arabic professor Amin Bonnah.
Sophomore Jose Madrid had a psychology class with Sweeney and is hoping for his classmate’s safe return.
“I’m definitely worried, it must be a tremendously terrifying experience not only to be abroad but to be detained abroad,” Madrid said.
Sweeney's family believes he is held at a courthouse in Cairo, which they hope is a positive sign because it’s not a prison. They have not been able to talk to him.