PHILADELPHIA — The three American students arrested during protests in Cairo arrived back in the U.S. late Saturday, three days after an Egyptian court ordered their release.
The young men were arrested on the roof of a university building near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square last Sunday after officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters.
Gregory Porter, 19, was greeted by his parents and other relatives Saturday evening when he landed at Philadelphia International Airport. Porter took no questions, but said he was thankful for the help he and the other American students received from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, administrators at the university they were attending, and attorneys in Egypt and the U.S.
"I'm just so thankful to be back, to be in Philadelphia right now," said Porter, who is from nearby Glenside, Pa., and attends Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Luke Gates, 21, arrived in the U.S. late Saturday and was expected back home in Indiana soon, Indiana University spokesman Mark Land said. Gates attends the university, and his parents have declined to talk with the media. Land said he spoke with Gates' father.
"He said he was doing very well and he was very excited to be on his way home," Land said. He added that 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.
The third student, 19-year-old Derrik Sweeney, was expected to arrive in Missouri late Saturday night. KOMU reported Saturday evening that the airline held the plane for Sweeney to board in Washington, and he was expected to arrive in St. Louis around midnight.
All three left the Egyptian capital Saturday morning on separate connecting flights to Frankfurt, Germany, an airport official in Cairo said. The three were studying at the American University in Cairo.
Protests have been going on near Cairo's central Tahrir Square since Nov. 19, in anticipation of the landmark parliamentary elections due to start Monday. On Friday, the crowd grew to more than 100,000 people, and thousands remained there Saturday.
Joy Sweeney said that her son, a 19-year-old Georgetown University student from Jefferson City, Mo., would fly from Frankfurt to Washington, then on to St. Louis. She said family will meet him when he arrives at the airport late Saturday.