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U.S. drops activist from award ceremony after tweets

By Erin McPike, CNN
updated 2:18 AM EST, Sat March 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim had been selected for courage award
  • State Department deferred honor after offensive tweets attributed to her surfaced
  • Ibrahim tweeted her account had been hacked; another response was posted later
  • Award ceremony honored other women from Afghanistan, Syria, Vietnam and Nigeria

Washington (CNN) -- A day before Secretary of State John Kerry and first lady Michelle Obama commended a select group of women from around the world for putting their lives at risk while defending women's rights, the State Department pulled the plug on one honoree after a number of tweets attributed to her came to light -- some anti-American and anti-Semitic.

In 2011, activist Samira Ibrahim, 26, was detained by Egyptian soldiers and subjected to a virginity test that she said made her feel as though she had been raped. She spoke out and sued the Egyptian military.

Last year, Time magazine named her to its list of the World's Most Influential People. On Friday, she was to have been one of 10 women to receive the International Women of Courage Award.

On Tuesday, the State Department was alerted by the Holocaust Museum to contentious tweets it said came from Ibrahim's account.

"Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every day come with America burning," read one.

Another was offensive to Jews.

Why weren't the tweets discovered earlier?

When they were posted six months ago, some activists replied to them, pointing out the remarks were unacceptable and anti-Semitic.

The Weekly Standard first reported them.

CNN attempted to contact Ibrahim without success. But she tweeted that her Twitter account was hacked and that she did not post the tweets.

But subsequent tweets on her account said that "I refused to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America, under pressure from the U.S. government, for previous Anti-Zionist statements so that prize was withdrawn."

The State Department said it initially selected her due to the "incredible bravery and courage she displayed at the time of the Tahrir Square protests," agency spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

But on Thursday, the Obama administration changed course.

"We, as a department, became aware very late in the process about Samira Ibrahim's alleged public comments. After careful consideration, we've decided that we should defer presenting this award to Ms. Ibrahim this year so that we have a chance to look further into these statements."

The International Women of Courage Award annually recognizes women who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights and empowerment, the State Department said.

The nine award recipients on Friday included women from Afghanistan, Honduras, Nigeria, Russia, Somalia, China, Syria and Vietnam.

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