The Cairo Criminal Court continued on Monday to look into the case of the Beladi Foundation for Street Children and heard the arguments presented by the prosecution.
During the last couple of sessions, the court has listened to witnesses, while the defendants were present. Also, local Egyptian media reported that a delegation from the US embassy attended the session.
Eight defendants are involved in the case, including founders Aya Hegazy and her husband Mohamed Hassanein. All of them are facing charges of child abuse and human trafficking.
The defendants were arrested in May 2014 after the police raided the foundation’s premises and closed down the non-governmental organisation for being “established without a licence,” after a complaint was filed by an individual accusing the foundation of kidnapping his son.
The Beladi Foundation was established in September 2013 with the aim of providing shelter for street children, developing their skills, and securing a safe environment for them, according to the foundation’s statement, released following the arrests.
Earlier in September, the White House called on Egypt to release Hegazy. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the White House’s demand by saying that it is an explicit intervention in Egypt’s internal affairs. Furthermore—during President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to the United Nations general assembly in New York that same month—then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also called for Hegazy’s release.
Then US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, called on Egypt to release Hegazy immediately after the latter spent 900 days in pre-trial detention.
The Egyptian foreign ministry condemned the requests, stating that Hegazy is accused of violating the law and exploiting street children. The ministry then demanded that in return for her release, Egyptian prisoners held in the US be released and charges against them be dropped.
Hegazy holds dual Egyptian-US citizenship and had come to Egypt from the US. She was arrested after reported claims that, through her foundation, she was using homeless children for political motives, such as paying them to participate in protests.