Family and friends of an American jailed in Egypt for nearly three years are hoping her time in custody may end soon.
Aya Hijazi, 29, grew up in Falls Church and is a dual citizen of the US and Egypt. After receiving her degree in conflict resolution from George Mason University in 2009, she returned to her native country and, with her Egyptian husband, started a foundation to help homeless children.
Then, in the May 2014 crackdown she and her husband, Mohammed Hassanein, were arrested, along with six others associated with their foundation, called Belady, Arabic for “our nation.” She was accused of abusing children, charges widely believed to be bogus.
Hijazi’s brother, Basel Hijazi, said in a phone interview from Germany that his sister has been more upbeat as her prosecution draws international condemnation and as the lack of evidence has been exposed.
“There is a lot of optimism right now. The fear would be that if things weren’t to go the way we hope, it would be like a 17th hit on the head,” he said.
Human rights groups and observers say the case against Hijazi is fiction, built on a few coerced statements from kids, some of which have been retracted. For years, her trial was delayed, often on frustrating technicalities. For some time, technicians could not open her laptop, where prosecutors hoped to find incriminating evidence.
Finally, this month, the trial began. McMullen said the arresting officers testified that the arrest was so long ago, they couldn’t remember any details and couldn’t identify Hijazi in court. The state’s forensic report shows no physical evidence of abuse, McMullen said.