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Egypt's presidential aide meets with teenage inventor in US

Abdallah Assem is patriotic and simply in search of US education, says official, in contrast to Egyptian media's campaign against science whiz

Ahram Online, Sunday 25 May 2014
Presidential aide for scientific issues, Essam Heggy (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Egyptian presidential aide for scientific issues Essam Heggy has met with teenage inventor Abdallah Assem after the later sought asylum in the US.

Assem, 17, who faces charges in Egypt of allegedly taking part in an illegal protest, travelled to the US on special permission from the interior ministry to compete in the Intel Science and Engineering Fair. Now he says he won't return to Egypt out of fear that he'll be arrested at the airport for a crime he insists he did not do.

As a result, Assem has been criticised by Egyptian media outlets, who have questioned his loyalty to Egypt.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Heggy said that he'd met the teenage inventor at the California Institute of Technology, adding that Assem is seeking education in the US and is not trying to create a conflict with Egypt in any possible way.

"Abdallah is filled with noble patriotic feelings and he came [to the US] to represent Egypt [in the Intel competition]," Heggy's post read.

Heggy said that Abdallah is frustrated that he didn't win the competition – due to not having enough time as he was detained by the Egyptian police before travelling – and thus wants to stay in the US until he can fulfil his dream of winning.

Heggy said that Assem needs guidance and assistance so that his statements won't be used against him in the media.

The presidential aide also directed his note to Egyptians, saying that they should "turn off the television and think as human beings" before blaming Assem.

Last week, Assem wrote on his Facebook page, "Yes, I am afraid to return back [to] Egypt, who is not afraid nowadays?"

"I wish I could have lived [with] my family in Assuit and worked on my inventions and let Egypt benefit from them," he continued.

Assem, an Assuit native, was arrested on 24 April in Cairo's Bab El-Louk district on charges of illegal protesting and participating in the burning of a police vehicle. He was later released on bail pending trial.

He denies the charges, insisting that he was passing by the protest with his science materials when he was arrested.

A law passed in November bans protests without prior approval by the police. Thousands of Morsi supporters as well as liberals have been arrested for defying the law. 


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