Three American students were arrested in Cairo on Monday and accused of participating in the violent clashes there between security forces and protesters calling for the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to step down immediately and hand over power to an interim civilian government. The three Americans have all been studying at the American University in Cairo (AUC); they are Gregory Porter, 19, of Glenside, Pa.; Luke Gates, 21, of Bloomington, Ind.; and Derrik Sweeney, 20, of Jefferson City, Mo.The three of accused of “throwing Molotov cocktails from atop the A.U.C. building” near Tahrir Square. As of Tuesday afternoon, they remain in police custody.
Egyptian State TV showed footage of three men lined up against a wall with bottles of colored liquid said to be firebombs, as well as their ID cards and an Indiana drivers license.
Sweeney is a student at Georgetown University. The Georgetown Voice reports that the three students will be “interviewed” today by the State Security public prosecutor; they had also been “interviewed” on Tuesday. A tweet by Sweeney’s sister, Nicole Sweeney, says that they had been seen by the US Consul General. Sweeney’s family has issued a statement thanking the Georgetown University for their support; Sweeney’s father, Kevin Sweeney, said in an interview that “He’s a huge believer in American freedom” and added “I suspect that being with a bunch of Egyptian students he probably got caught up in something. Who knows?”
Before Monday, Gates, a student at Indiana University studying political science and Near Eastern languages and culture, had written on his Twitter account about participating in the protests:
On Monday, Gates wrote: “I think I am missing part of my ear” and, a day earlier, told of injuries to his knee and elbow. He wrote: “Back to Tahrir tonight as police set fires to everything, no doubt they will blame it on protesters.”
Three days ago he wrote of “feeling reckless” and “honestly, hopefully I die here”. Another read: “I just don’t want to feel anymore” and one which said: “saw them hanging from the bridge, realise death is the only thing that’s immortal.”
Porter attends Drexel University in Philadelphia where he is studying international area studies.
The United Nations has condemned the “clearly excessive use of force” by security police against the protesters. UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay has called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of at least 30 protesters since the weekend. Clashes continue for a fifth day and are now centered around the interior ministry building near Tahrir Square. The cities of Alexandria, Suez, Port Said and Aswan have also seen clashes.
On Tuesday, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the SCAF, said that parliamentary elections would be held as planned on November 28 and that presidential elections would be held in July of 2012. While the main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and others have seemed satisfied with the latest concessions, the protests say they will not leave Tahrir Square until Tantawi — who served as defense minister to ousted president Hosni Mubarak for two decades — has stepped down. Said one protester to the AFP news agency:
“Tantawi is Mubarak, copy pasted. He’s Mubarak in a military uniform.”
Photo of a makeshift barrier outside the interior ministry gate by Al Jazeera English
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Photo of a makeshift clinic in Cairo by Al Jazeera English