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US Lawmaker Urges Egypt to Release Dual Citizen

FILE - U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, center, meets with imam Johari Abdul-Malik, left, and others at Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Va., Dec. 4, 2015. The Virginia Democrat is pressing Cairo to release Egyptian-American Aya Hijazi.

A northern Virginia congressman is calling on the Egyptian government to release a prisoner whose arrest two years ago has drawn condemnation from human rights groups.

Aya Hijazi grew up in the Washington suburb of Falls Church, Virginia, and is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Egypt. She had been running a foundation in Egypt dedicated to helping street children when she and her husband were arrested in 2014.

Democratic congressman Don Beyer will meet with Hijazi's family Thursday on Capitol Hill, to be followed by an afternoon news conference. Fellow Democratic congressman Gerry Connolly will join him.

Egyptian authorities accuse Hijazi and her husband of using their foundation to exploit children, but the trial has been delayed multiple times. Human rights groups have said the charges are trumped up and part of a crackdown by Egypt's government on civil society there.

In May, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization petitioned the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to investigate what it called the "unjustified" pretrial detention of Hijazi, along with her husband and foundation co-founder, Mohamed Hassanein Mostafa Fathallah. It said Hijazi "has been subject to coercive in interrogation techniques," including hitting her in the neck, "and may be subject to further grave violations during her ongoing detention."

VOA contributed to this report.