The Jefferson City man held by Egyptian authorities for less than a week is back home and talking about his experience.
19-year-old Derrik Sweeney and two other college students were accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at security forces during protests in the capital city of Cairo. Authorities also said the trio were carrying a bag filled with bottles and rags for making more firebombs.
Sweeney says those accusations were all false, saying he, 19-year-old Gregory Porter of Pennsylvania and 21-year-old Luke Gates of Indiana were just observing the protests taking place near Tahrir Square. Since his return he has viewed a video released by Egyptian authorities that he says confirms his claim. In the video, Sweeney says he is visible in the video “standing there not doing anything. Not even shouting anything or talking. We’re standing there on a street. We were hoping to witness the protests and witness the birth of a democracy and see people fighting for their rights, but we did not commit any violence of break any laws.”
See that video as part of an interview with Sweeney and his mother, Joy on CBS’s The Morning Show:
He says the three were treated harshly during their first night of captivity. “They threatened to force-feed us gasoline … they were pushing it up against our mouths and tilting it forward. And then after that, they hit us in the face and in the back of the neck a number of times and then they had us in a dark room on the ground in a fetal position with our heads toward the ground and our hands cuffed behind our back, and they told us, ‘Don’t move, don’t make a noise. If you move or speak we sill shoot you.'” He called that experience “terrifying.”
Sweeney does not believe it was police that were holding the three that night. “Whenever we asked people during investigations, they would actually try to ask us and try to ascertain who had us in the first evening when we were undergoing investigations … they could never really say who it was.” One group he did hear references to is described as a “sort of like a neighborhood watch, a council, sort of vigilantes basically that are unpaid but that are working with the government.”
He says the questions they were asked that night had little to do with the protests or accusations of firebombing. “They asked a lot about our backgrounds, our families and our previous work experiences; specifically whether or not we had any connections to defense or intelligence. It seemed as though … they believed we were spies.”
After that night, Sweeney says the three were treated with more civility until their release. He thinks he was then being held by “more official, legitimate, formal police officers.”
He returned to Jefferson City Sunday where he celebrated a belated Thanksgiving holiday with his family. He observes, under the circumstances there was, “A lot of thanks to be given!”
AUDIO: Hear Mike Lear’s interview with Derrick Sweeney – 22:13 min.