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3 American Students Arrested In Cairo Have Been Released

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Update: The three American students arrested during a protest in Cairo have been released. Georgetown University student Derrik Sweeney, 19, along with Luke Gates, 21, and Gregory Porter, 19, caught flights out of Egypt early Saturday, reports the Associated Press.

An Egyptian court ordered their release on Thursday. The three, who are students at the American University in Cairo, were arrested on the roof of a university building near Tahrir Square last Sunday. According to AP, officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters.

An attorney for one of the three said police escorted the students to the Cairo airport Friday. Sweeney's mother, Joy, told AP she's "ecstatic" and can't wait for her son's return home. Sweeney, who is from Jefferson City, Mo., is scheduled to arrive in St. Louis late Saturday.

Original story: A Georgetown University student was one of three American students arrested in Cairo Monday evening. 

An Egyptian Interior Ministry official says the three were arrested on the roof of a building at the American University of Cairo, where they were throwing firebombs at security forces fighting protesters in Tahrir Square, according to the Associated Press. 

The Georgetown student, Derrik Sweeney, 19, of Jefferson City, Mo., was arrested alongside Gregory Porter, a Drexel University student and Luke Gates, a student at Indiana University.

In an interview with AP, Sweeney's mother, Joy Sweeney, described him as a principled person who stands up for his beliefs. He attended previous protests but stopped after a demonstration where dozens were killed, she said. He had assured his family the violence wasn't near him and he was safe. Still, Joy Sweeney said she wasn't surprised he went.

"He got caught up in the whole college-change-the-world mentality, and he believes in democracy strongly,'' she said.

But she also said her son was the family peacemaker when siblings fought and she couldn't see him acting violently. "I don't believe that he would intentionally throw a bomb at anyone,'' she said. "I don't believe that.''

Officials from the American University in Cairo tell NBC Washington that they have been in touch with the U.S. State Department, but it was not clear at this time whether or not they have been formally charged.

Protests have intensified in Tahrir Square in recent days as Egyptians have called on the country's military leaders to hold Parliamentary elections sooner rather than later. More than 29 have been left dead, and tens of thousands of people remain on the streets in protest.

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