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Egypt Frees Hunger-Striking US Citizen One Month After Sentencing Him to Life in Prison

Mohammed Soltan, a 27-year-old graduate of Ohio State University, had been in prison in Egypt for nearly two years and on hunger strike for the last 16 months.

by Gillian Mohney
May 30 2015, 5:00pm

Photo via Heba Elkholy/AP

An American with dual Egyptian citizenship was released from prison in Egypt today just over one month after he received a life sentence.

Mohammed Soltan, 27, had been in prison for nearly two years after he was arrested in 2013. He was convicted on charges of financing an anti-government sit-in and spreading "false news," and was sentenced to life in prison just last month. He was released today on the condition that he would renounce his Egyptian citizenship.

Soltan's family released a statement this morning thanking supporters and the US government for helping secure his release.

"By the grace of God, we are incredibly happy to confirm that Mohammed is on his way home after nearly two years in captivity," the family said in a statement on Facebook.

Related: Will Egypt's Mass Death Sentence Provoke Violence

Soltan was arrested in 2013 after security forces arrived at his home looking for his father, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now banned in Egypt. The younger Soltan was taken instead, and his father was later detained and sentenced to death. Soltan came to Egypt from the US to care for his ailing mother, and began working as a translator for foreign journalists covering the pro-democracy demonstrations that were occurring in the country at the time. He was shot in the arm by a sniper during one protest. 

The treatment of Soltan, a graduate of Ohio State University and former campaigner for President Barack Obama, drew international headlines, especially after he started a hunger strike 16 months ago to protest his arrest. Soltan's deteriorating health has been a concern for his family and officials as he remained behind bars.

"As you can imagine, after spending several hundred days on hunger strike, and many months in solitary confinement, Mohammed's health is dire," his family said. "He will receive medical treatment as soon as he arrives on US soil and will spend the immediate future with his family recovering." 

Related: Egypt After Morsi

Unnamed Egyptian officials told the Associated Press this morning that Soltan had boarded a flight bound for Frankfurt, Germany with a US passport, and was on his way back to reunite with his family in the US.

"We believe this step brings a conclusion to this case and we are glad Mr. Soltan will now be reunited with his family in the United States," the US State Department said in a statement.

When Soltan's sentence was handed down in April, his father's death sentence was also upheld. Another 36 people, including three Egyptian journalists and a Muslim Brotherhood leader, were sentenced to life in prison as part of the country's ongoing crackdown on the group and supporters of ousted Mohamed Morsi.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. 

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