Abdallah Assem, a 17-year-old student who was supposed to represent Egypt in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, was prevented on Sunday from travelling to the United States to attend the fair.
Assem was arrested alongside a friend in the vicinity of Tahrir Square over two weeks ago. Originally from the Upper Egyptian governorate of Assiut, Assem was reportedly in Cairo to finalise his travel papers.
The Assiut Prosecution ordered Assem’s detention for 15 days two weeks ago. An Assiut judge nevertheless released the student from detention last week when his family appealed the decision.
Fatma Serag, a lawyer from the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), had earlier said Assem’s family insisted on challenging the prosecution’s decision to prevent their son from missing the fair. Assem was released on an EGP 5,000 bail. Serag said he would be allowed to travel unless the prosecution challenges the judge’s decision.
Assem was held at the Cairo International Airport, where he was scheduled to catch a flight to the US on Sunday morning, until he missed his flight, he said on his personal Facebook account. He claimed he was told by Homeland Security officials that he was on a travel-ban list.
Airport security officials could not be reached for comment.
Serag said Assem and his friends were arrested for “jokingly” flashing the Rabaa sign. Waleed Awad, Assem’s friend, said they were arrested from a cafe near Tahrir Square. Awad claimed, in a Facebook post, that the two were arrested by Homeland Security.
Awad was released shortly afterwards. Assem was referred back to Assiut, where he was accused of purposefully vandalising a car that belongs to a police officer, AFTE reported.