Egypt’s representative in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair boarded a plane headed for California in the United States on Monday after the Ministry of Interior lifted a travel ban which had earlier barred him from travelling.
Abdallah Assem, a 17-year-old student who was supposed to represent Egypt in the Intel science fair, was prevented from travelling on Sunday.
Assem was arrested alongside a friend in the vicinity of Tahrir Square over two weeks ago when he was accused of purposefully vandalising a car that belongs to a police officer. Originally from the Upper Egyptian governorate of Assiut, Assem was reportedly in Cairo to finalise his travel papers.
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 added he was told by Homeland Security officials that he was on a travel-ban list.
Waleed Awad, Assem’s friend who was arrested with him, said the Ministry of Interior reversed Assem’s travel ban on Sunday evening.
Fatma Serag, lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression following up on Assem’s case, said the reversal came as a reaction to “extensive media coverage” of the travel ban.
The Assiut Prosecution had 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. He was released on an EGP 5,000 bail.
Serag said Assem and his friends were arrested for “jokingly” flashing the Rabaa sign. Awad 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 while Assem was referred back to Assiut.