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Jefferson City mom elated after son released in Egypt

Thursday, November 24, 2011 | 10:26 a.m. CST; updated 10:11 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 26, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — The pending release of three American students arrested in Egypt during protests near Cairo's Tahrir Square is the best Thanksgiving gift, the mother of one of the young men said Thursday.

Joy Sweeney said the consul general confirmed around 6 a.m. Thursday that her 19-year-old son, Derrik Sweeney, will be released.

"I was elated, I was absolutely elated," Sweeney said. "I can't wait to give him a huge hug and tell him how much I love him."

Derrik Sweeney, a Georgetown University student, was arrested during protests Sunday near Tahrir Square. Also arrested was Luke Gates, a 21-year-old Indiana University student from Bloomington, Ind., and Gregory Porter, a 19-year-old Drexel University student from Glenside, Pa.

An Egyptian official has said the three were arrested on the roof of a university building where they were throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters near Tahrir Square.

Sweeney said she started to receive emails around 3 a.m. Thursday indicating the three would be released but that the prosecuting attorney might yet seek an appeal. Then an attorney messaged to say no appeal was being sought and that the students would be released.

"It truly is (the best Thanksgiving gift)," she said. "Now it's just about getting him home."

Derrik Sweeney interned for U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., earlier this year. Luetkemeyer's spokesman Paul Sloca, said the congressman is "extremely pleased that he's safe and coming home, especially on Thanksgiving."

Joy Sweeney said she hoped her son would leave Egypt on Friday, but that this depended on how quickly he could find his passport in his dorm room.

"If he can find his passport (then he'll leave) tomorrow, if not, it won't be until Monday," she said. "So that's our big concern right now, whether or not he has his passport. We're not sure he knows where that is."

Sweeney said she had not prepared for a Thanksgiving celebration, although a friend had taken her some food. She said the idea of a Thanksgiving feast had seemed "absolutely irrelevant" before the news of her son's pending freedom.

Asked what she thought her son would take away from his arrest, Sweeney said she thought he would make something useful of it.

"I'm sure that he'll put a life-lesson learning experience into a positive story," Sweeney said. "He's a writer, he will write about this experience."


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