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Imprisoned U.S. citizen Mohamed Soltan was released from prison in Egypt on Saturday. With no Egyptian court ruling to reverse his life sentence it came as a surprising move to many.
Soltan is the son of a member of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. International criticism of Egyptian’s mass trials and imprisonment have plagued the country and some have speculated that his release from prison could be a way to ease those criticism.
Soltan, who is 27 spent almost two years in prison after the Egyptian government crushed supporters of the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood. He was arrested in August of 2013 when security forces went to his home looking for his father Salah, who they were unable to find. They arrested the younger Soltan instead. In April the former President Obama campaigner and Ohio State graduate was sentenced to life in prison for his support of protest that came after the overthrowing of President Mohamed Morsi. His crimes included “spreading false news,” and financing week-long sit ins.
Today authorities in Egypt without fanfare, put him on a plane home. Two years of frenzied efforts by US Officials and family came to a victorious conclusion today. As of now it is still uncertain what prompted his release and there has been no announcement of clemency from Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
According to Hanna Soltan, Mohamed Soltan’s older sister he will be home by Saturday night. Hanna Soltan has spent the majority of the last two years fighting for her brother’s release. From her Washington home she orchestrated much of the family’s campaign to free her brother. She worked with lawyers both at home and abroad and lobbied US officials in order to gain freedom for her brother. State Department officials told her earlier in the week that things might be moving forward, but the news of his release still came as a shock to her. She received a phone call early Saturday morning from her mother in tears, who was in Cairo observing Soltan’s case, telling her the exciting news.
Mohamed Soltan, the imprisoned US citizen who was released Saturday, protested his treatment while in prison, by staging a hunger strike that was over a year long, the first and longest of its kind in Egyptian prison history. According to the family his health was in a critical state, something that photographs of him in a courtroom in Cairo support. The photographs show a very thin and pale Soltan talking to the court while lying on a stretcher. The family has said that Soltan did not receive proper medical care while in prison.
Soltan had dual U.S. and Egyptian citizenship. As a condition of his release he had to renounce his Egyptian citizenship. According to reports it was something he did not want to do but lawyers and his family convinced him to do so, telling him there was no other way for him to be released. Due to his health he was in a wheel chair and required a nurse on the journey to Washington. As soon as he arrives in the US he will receive medical treatment and spend time recovering with his family
Lawyers for the family said the activist had been falsely imprisoned for almost two years for just peacefully protesting and assisting in bringing media coverage to the protest. Soltan was tried along with 50 other people in what his lawyer called a “Kafkaesque” show trial.
U.S. State Department senior official released a statement saying that they believe this step brings an end to this case and they are happy that Mr. Soltan will be reunited with his family. His family has thanked everyone who has helped make this moment happen. Soltan’s release from Egyptian prison, has many in America celebrating the US citizens return home.
By Jessica Hamel
The Guardian: Egypt Frees Ohio State Graduate From Life Sentence After 16-Month Hunger Strike
CNN: Egypt Releases U.S. Citizen Who’d Been Sentence to Life for Activism
The Washington Post: U.S. Citizen Mohamed Soltan Freed from Egyptian Prison
Photo of Protest Courtesy of Takver’s Flickr page-Creative Commons License
Photo of Prison Cells Courtesy of Emily Hoyer’s Flickr page- Creative Common’s License