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Attorney: 3 U.S. college students released from police custody

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:47 PM EST, Fri November 25, 2011
Three American students were attending American University in Cairo on a semester-long, study-abroad program.
Three American students were attending American University in Cairo on a semester-long, study-abroad program.
  • NEW: The father of one student says his son was "falsely accused"
  • The three students are headed to the airport to return home, a lawyer says
  • An Egyptian-American filmmaker has been released, her lawyer says
  • She was reportedly arrested while filming close to the interior ministry

(CNN) -- Three American college students detained in Cairo since Monday night were released from police custody Friday and were headed to the airport to return to the United States, an attorney for one of the men said.

The men will board three separate commercial flights to return home, according to Joy Sweeney, the mother of Derrik Sweeney.

Theodore Simon, an attorney for the family of Gregory Porter, told CNN that "his parents anxiously await his return."

The three -- Porter, Sweeney and Luke Gates -- were arrested after being accused of throwing Molotov cocktails in the unrest that has rattled the country since last week. Their release was ordered Thursday.

Joy Sweeney said earlier Friday that the paperwork to release the men had been completed. Derrik Sweeney's father, Kevin Sweeney, told CNN his flight is scheduled to leave Cairo at 10:30 a.m. Saturday (3:30 a.m. ET) and he will arrive in his home state of Missouri on Saturday night.

"He's extremely excited," Kevin Sweeney said of his son. The family was planning to hold a belated Thanksgiving meal Sunday.

Joy Sweeney said her son told her Wednesday in a telephone call that "they had done nothing wrong." All had been attending American University in Cairo on a semester-long, study-abroad program.

Sweeney, 19, is a Georgetown University student from Jefferson City, Missouri; Porter, 19, is from Glenside, Pennsylvania, and attends Drexel University in Philadelphia; and Gates, 21, of Bloomington, Indiana, goes to Indiana University.

Adel Saeed, the general prosecutor's spokesman, said Wednesday that a bag filled with empty bottles, a bottle of gasoline, a towel and a camera had been found with the three American students.

"They denied the bag belonged to them and said it belonged to two of their friends," Saeed said.

Kevin Sweeney said Friday that his son had been "falsely accused."

"He was there observing something that was definitely a phenomenon of the culture," he said, noting that Derrik, with a dual major in Arabic and psychology, had gone to Egypt "not just to learn the language -- he wanted to learn the culture."

Now, Sweeney said, his son does not plan to return to Egypt.

"This semester is over for him, whether he's able to finish it remotely or writes it off," he said. "He really does not want to be in Egypt right now."

Sweeney declined to discuss any possible injuries his son sustained while in police custody. He was not aware of the conditions of the other two men.

Also Friday, an Egyptian-American filmmaker arrested amid ongoing protests in Cairo was released, her lawyer said. There were no immediate details about the release of documentarian Jehane Noujaim, which was confirmed by her lawyer, Ragia Omran.

Film producer Karim Amer said Wednesday that Noujaim -- whose works include "The Control Room," about Al-Jazeera and the United States during the early days of the Iraq War -- was arrested while filming near the Interior Ministry building in Cairo.

CNN's Hussein Saddique and Michelle Cumbo contributed to this report

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