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May 30, 5:42 AM EDT

Egypt frees US-Egyptian national sentenced to life in prison



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CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian authorities freed a dual U.S.-Egyptian citizen on Saturday who had been on hunger strike for over a year and was sentenced to life in prison on charges of financing an anti-government sit-in and spreading "false news."

Mohammed Soltan, the son of a prominent member of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was arrested in August 2013 when security forces came looking for his father at his home. His family said they didn't find the father at the time, but arrested him instead. His father, Salah, was detained later.

Soltan, a 27-year-old Ohio State University graduate and former Barack Obama campaigner, had been on a hunger strike over his detention of more than 14 months and his family said his health had been rapidly deteriorating.

Egyptian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief journalists, said Soltan boarded a flight for Frankfurt, Germany, early Saturday en route to the United States, using a U.S. passport.

In a statement, Soltan's family thanked those who helped work for his release, saying that the U.S. government had secured his deportation back home after extensive efforts.

"After spending several hundred days on hunger strike, and many months in solitary confinement, Mohammed's health is dire," his family said. "He will receive medical treatment as soon as he arrives on U.S. soil and will spend the immediate future with his family recovering."

A criminal court in April sentenced Soltan to life, while upholding death sentences for 14 people, including his father and Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, and sentencing 36 others to life in prison, including three Egyptian journalists.

The case is rooted in the violence that swept Egypt after the military-led ouster in July 2013 of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, a veteran Brotherhood leader. His supporters set up protest camps in Cairo. Security forces violently dispersed the sit-ins in August 2013, killing hundreds. In retaliation, many police stations and churches came under attack.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who as army chief overthrew Morsi amid mass protests against the Islamist leader, issued a decree in November that allows him to deport foreign defendants convicted or accused of crimes.

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