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Aya Hijazi, center, a dual U.S.-Egyptian citizen, is acquitted by an Egyptian court after nearly three years of detention over accusations related to running a foundation dedicated to helping street children, Cairo, Sunday, April 16, 2017. Egyptian authorities arrested Hijazi, her husband and six others in May 2014 on charges of abusing children in her care and engaging in human trafficking, kidnapping, sexual exploitation and torture. (AP Photo/Mohamed el Raai)

An Egyptian court cleared an American aid worker who spent 3 years behind bars


Egyptian-American aid worker Aya Hijazi was acquitted by a Cairo court on Sunday, after being held in detention for nearly three years on child abuse and human trafficking charges. 

Hijazi, and seven others -- including her husband Mohamed Hassanein -- were arrested in May 2014 when the Belady Foundation, a non-governmental organization they founded to provide aid to street children, was raided. 

Prosecutors were unable to provide evidence to support the allegations against them.

In the years since their arrests, human rights groups and senior U.S. officials have called for their release. 

“The case of Aya Hijazi and her co-defendants has been nothing less than a travesty of justice,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a report released in March. 

Hillary Clinton reiterated the demand for Hijazi's release in a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during her presidential campaign in September 2016. 

President Donald Trump didn't publicly mention the case when he met with el-Sissi earlier this month, but a senior White House official told the Associated Press he planned to bring up the issue. 

The trial for Hijazi and her husband was postponed for more than two years and now the couple's lawyer said they should be released "within a week," CNN reports.

 "Over the moon is a good way to describe how we felt," Hijazi's mother, Naglaa Hosny, told CNN after the judge announced the verdict.

It is unclear whether Hijazi will remain in Egypt after her release. The 30-year-old grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, and graduated from George Mason University in 2009 with a degree in conflict resolution. 

After returning to Egypt, she and her husband founded Belady, Arabic for "our nation," in 2013. The foundation was raided just a few months later when a man alleged that his son was missing and blamed it on the NGO.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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