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Three American students arrested in Cairo flying to US

Saturday, November 26, 2011 | 3:31 p.m. CST; updated 10:09 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 26, 2011

CAIRO — Three American students arrested during a protest in Cairo caught flights out of Egypt early Saturday, according to an airport official and an attorney for one of the trio.

The three were arrested on the roof of a university building near Tahrir Square last Sunday. Officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters. On Thursday, a court ordered them released. All three were studying at the American University in Cairo.

Luke Gates, 21, and Derrik Sweeney, 19, left the Egyptian capital Saturday on separate flights to Frankfurt, Germany, an airport official in Cairo said. Gregory Porter, 19, also left the country, his attorney said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Joy Sweeney said her son, a 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."

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

Attorney Theodore Simon, who represents Porter, a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said police escorted the three students to the Cairo airport Friday. Simon later said his client was on a flight.

"I am pleased and thankful to report that Gregory Porter is in the air. He has departed Egyptian airspace and is on his way home," Simon said, though he declined to say when Porter was expected back in the U.S.

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

"He clearly conveyed to me ... that he was OK," Simon said.

Indiana University spokesman Mark Land said Gates' parents haven't disclosed which flights their son is taking home. The family is private, and Gates' parents are "really hopeful they can spend a little time with him without having to answer a lot of questions" in the media spotlight, Land said.

Gates was in the air Saturday morning and expected to return to Bloomington later in the day, Land said.

He said he spoke to Gates' father, Bill Gates, shortly after his son boarded a flight out of Egypt.

"He said he was doing very well and he was very excited to be on his way home," Land said.

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