Family waiting for information on Jefferson City student arrested in Cairo

Nov 22, 2011

One of the three American students arrested during protests in Egypt for allegedly throwing fire bombs at Egyptian police is from Mid Missouri.

Video being broadcast on Egyptian television (posted below) shows the three American students in custody.  One of them is looking around the room - he looks almost comfortable. The other is stoic – almost to the point of disinterest. Then, there’s Derrik Sweeney. He looks…

“Terrified. Like a deer in the headlights,” said Joy Sweeney, Derrik’s mother.

Joy is a school board member in Jefferson City, where Derrik grew up. The video shows a table in front of the suspects holding what’s likely evidence: bottles of gasoline like they allegedly threw at Egyptian police fighting with protestors near Tahrir Square Monday.

“What do I think about those accusations? I think they’re a completely inaccurate portrayal of my child. He cares deeply about the world and he truly believes in solving problems peacefully,” Joy Sweeney said.

Joy and her family had very little information about her son’s situation Tuesday night. The last thing the State Department told her is he’s being held for questioning at a courthouse in Cairo. She’s watching the news, too, in hopes of finding out more. 

“He’s a 19-year-old junior at Georgetown (University). So obviously he’s had to work hard to get to where he is in this world and he was studying Arabic and psychology. So I believe he was curious but I do not believe he would inflict harm on anyone,” Joy Sweeney said.

Joy’s phone keeps cutting in and out during our interview. Some of the calls are from friends offering prayers; others are reporters from all over the world. The last time she spoke with her son was just hours before his arrest.

“He said that everything was fine there and he’s about to go hang out with some friends, and then he spoke to his friends again, and he said mom I love you very much and I’ll call you later. And I said I love you too and I hung up,” Joy Sweeney said.

Joy says the state department told her it wouldn’t be a good idea right now for her family to try to go to Egypt. But she says she has another son in Afghanistan who may try to go to Egypt if Derrik ends up going to trial.