American student arrested in Cairo returns home

Gregory Porter, left, one of three U.S. students arrested during a demonstration in Cairo, and his attorney Theodore Simon, second from right, speak to members of the news media after arriving at Philadelphia International Airport, in Philadelphia, on Saturday Nov. 26, 2011, after an Egyptian court ordered the release of Porter and two other U.S. students who were arrested for throwing firebombs at security forces said Egyptian officials.
AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek

Updated 6:33 PM EST

PHILADELPHIA - At least one of three American students arrested during protests in Cairo arrived back in the U.S. on Saturday, nearly three days after an Egyptian court ordered their release.

Gregory Porter, 19, landed in Philadelphia after flying from Cairo to Paris. He and two other U.S. students had been arrested on the roof of a university building near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square last Sunday after officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters

Porter took no questions at the airport, but said he was thankful for the help he and the other two young men received from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, administrators at the university they were attending and attorneys in Egypt and the U.S.

"I'm just so thankful to be back, to be in Philadelphia right now," said Porter, who is from nearby Glenside, Pa., and attends Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Luke Gates, 21, and Derrik Sweeney, 19, left the Egyptian capital Saturday morning on separate flights to Frankfurt, Germany, an airport official in Cairo said.

All three young men were studying at the American University in Cairo.

"We're thrilled that he's home," said Sharon Sloan of Newtown, Pa., one of the relatives at the airport. "We think it's a miracle, definitely an answer to prayer."

Protests have been going on in Cairo there since Nov. 19, in anticipation of the landmark parliamentary elections due to start Monday. On Friday, the crowd grew to more than 100,000 people, and thousands remained there Saturday.

Gates, who attends Indiana University, was in the air Saturday morning and expected to return to Bloomington, Ind., later in the day, university spokesman Mark Land said.

His parents haven't disclosed which flights their son was taking home and are "really hopeful they can spend a little time with him without having to answer a lot of questions" in the media spotlight, Land said.

He said he spoke to Gates' father, Bill Gates, shortly after his son boarded a flight out of Egypt.

"He said he was doing very well and he was very excited to be on his way home," Land said.

The students were technically freed on Thursday when an Egyptian court ordered their release, but they had to stay in custody an extra 24 hours as lawyers and police dealt with the bureaucracy of their release, reports CBS News correspondent Liz Palmer.

Once they were allowed to walk free last night, things happened very fast. They were taken to the airport by police, where they each boarded separate flights to different destinations in the States. All three planes took off, reports Palmer, so in just a matter of hours, they will all be back in the arms of their families.

All were studying at the American University in Cairo.

Attorney Theodore Simon, who represents Porter, a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said police escorted the three students to the Cairo airport Friday. Simon later said his client was on a flight.

"I am pleased and thankful to report that Gregory Porter is in the air. He has departed Egyptian airspace and is on his way home," Simon said, though he declined to say when Porter was expected back in the U.S.

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Simon said he and Porter's mother both spoke by phone with the student, who is from the Philadelphia suburb of Glenside.

"He clearly conveyed to me ... that he was OK," Simon told The Associated Press.

Gates is a student at Indiana University. It wasn't clear when he was expected back in the U.S.

Joy Sweeney told the AP her son, a 19-year-old Georgetown University student from Jefferson City, Missouri, would fly from Frankfurt to Washington, then on to St. Louis. She said family will meet him when he arrives late Saturday.

"I am ecstatic," Sweeney said Friday. "I can't wait for him to get home tomorrow night. I can't believe he's actually going to get on a plane. It is so wonderful."

Sweeney said she had talked with her son Friday afternoon and "he seemed jubilant."

"He thought he was going to be able to go back to his dorm room and get his stuff," she said. "We said, `No, no, don't get your stuff, we just want you here."'

She said the American University in Cairo will ship his belongings home.

Sweeney had earlier said she did not prepare a Thanksgiving celebration this week because the idea seemed "absolutely irrelevant" while her son still was being held.

"I'm getting ready to head out and buy turkey and stuffing and all the good fixings so that we can make a good Thanksgiving dinner," she said Friday.