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UPDATE: Attorney: Jefferson City student, 2 others on way to airport

Friday, November 25, 2011 | 3:53 p.m. CST; updated 10:09 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 26, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — Three American students arrested during a protest in Egypt were released Friday and planned to catch flights out of Cairo to begin their trips home, an attorney and family said.

An Egyptian court ordered the release of American University in Cairo students Derrik Sweeney, Luke Gates and Gregory Porter a day earlier.

The three were arrested on the roof of a university building near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square on Sunday. Officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters.

Attorney Theodore Simon, who represents the 19-year-old Porter, a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said police escorted the students to the airport late Friday local time.

Simon said he and Porter's mother both spoke by phone with the student, who is from the Philadelphia suburb of Glenside, Pa.

"He clearly conveyed to me ... that he was OK," Simon told The Associated Press.

Simon wouldn't immediately discuss his client's travel plans, but Sweeney's mother said the students were expected to fly from Cairo to Frankfurt, Germany.

Joy Sweeney told the AP that her son, a 19-year-old Georgetown University student from Jefferson City would fly from Frankfurt to Washington then on to St. Louis. She said family will meet him when he arrives late Saturday.

"I am ecstatic," Sweeney said Friday. "I can't wait for him to get home tomorrow night. I can't believe he's actually going to get on a plane. It is so wonderful."

The 21-year-old Gates is a student at Indiana University.

His parents issued a statement through the school Thursday saying they were "extremely happy" he would be coming home soon.

Joy Sweeney said U.S. Embassy officials had earlier indicated it might be a few more days before the students were released because Egyptian courts typically are closed Fridays and Saturdays.

"But apparently the U.S. Embassy and the powers that be made it happen," she said. "Whoever needed to be there got there and got it done for the boys, and we are eternally grateful."

Sweeney said she had talked with her son Friday afternoon and "he seemed jubilant."

"He thought he was going to be able to go back to his dorm room and get his stuff," she said. "We said, 'No, no, don't get your stuff, we just want you here.'"

She said American University will ship his belongings home.

Sweeney said earlier that she did not prepare a Thanksgiving celebration this week because the idea seemed "absolutely irrelevant" while her son still was being held.

"I'm getting ready to head out and buy turkey and stuffing and all the good fixings so that we can make a good Thanksgiving dinner," she said Friday.


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