One Year after Egyptian Imprisonment, Youth out of Limelight

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JEFFERSON CITY - One year after being imprisoned in Egypt, Jefferson City resident Derrick Sweeney's life has pretty much returned to normal. The student is enrolled in his final semester at Georgetown University, studying Arabic. Although the classes Sweeney took at American University in Cairo didn't count toward his graduation, Sweeney is ready to get his diploma.

Kevin Sweeney, Derrick's father, said, "Derrick definitely learned about the culture, all of it, including the guns and punishment."

A year has passed since Sweeney and two other American students were imprisoned in Egypt under allegations of throwing Molotov cocktails into a crowd. The teens were eventually freed and sent back to the states to finish their schooling.

In an interview with KOMU 8 News, Sweeney said the experience hasn't really changed his outlook much. He said, "Seeing the bare bones of what government [is] when it tries to control people, what it is. It's men with guns. So that's led me really strongly to oppose more government control through socialism or fascism. I'm really strongly opposed to seeing government grow."

Sweeney said he doesn't have nightmares about the situation, but said the most frightening part was "being taken and beaten."

Sweeney's fluency in Arabic helped him interpret what the Egyptians were saying and helped him to follow directions better.

For Sweeney's full interview check out the video below.


While Sweeney was in captivity, no matter how much worrying either parent endured, both said they never strayed from their faith. Mother Joy Sweeney said, "You know everybody was like how could you stay home. I said that was one of the hardest decisions that we had to make. That was one of the hardest things to do. To stay here when you know he needed our help."

Joy Sweeney added, "He's always been a kind of take it in stride kind of person, but I'll never forget when I called and he (Derrick) actually talked to me for the first time, how he said now that I'm talking to you I know everything is going to be okay."

Father Kevin Sweeney, who had returned from a business trip only a few days before his son's imprisonment, recalled, "If I would have gotten the call while I was in Korea I would have been on a plane right there. However the embassy told us we wouldn't do any good there."

Kevin Sweeney admitted the biggest help to his family was the lawyer in Egypt who agreed to work pro bono to help release Derrick Sweeney and another student who was taken into custody. Kevin Sweeney said, "They wouldn't have had representation otherwise."

The family hasn't been in contact with that lawyer, but said they were thankful for all of the help, advice, and prayers while Derrick was trying to come home.

Between the bustle to get Derrick back home safely, the Sweeney family didn't have a traditional Thanksgiving last year. However, the family was able to make up for it this year, as all of the Sweeney family was able to connect in California on Thanksgiving to give thanks that their family is safe and all in America.

Despite the difficulties in 2011, Kevin and Joy Sweeney have not limited their children from traveling outside of the country. Joy Sweeney said her youngest daughter wants to travel abroad.

Even Derrick said he is planning to travel abroad again. He said, "I will definitely go abroad--maybe not Egypt quite yet--but yeah, I will definitely go."