Forced to lie still for hours in the dark, the American students held during protests in Egypt were told they would be shot if they moved or made any noise, one of them said Sunday on his first full day home.
“It was the most frightening experience of my life, I believe,” Derrik Sweeney said.
Speaking in Jefferson City, Mo., Sweeney said the evening of Nov. 20 started peacefully in Cairo, with Tahrir Square “abuzz with ideas of democracy and freedom.”
The three wandered the streets and wound up in a large group of protesters outside the Interior Ministry, Sweeney said. The demonstrations escalated, with the protesters yelling and perhaps throwing stones, he said.
“Eventually the police shot back something, I’m not exactly sure what,” he said. “We didn’t wait to see. But as soon as we saw some sort of firing coming from the gun and heard it, the whole crowd stampeded out and we sprinted away.”
He said they fled to an area that seemed calmer and were approached by four or five Egyptians in plain clothes. The men offered to lead them to safety but instead took them into custody, Sweeney said.
They were threatened to be force-fed gasoline, beaten and forced to lie in in the dark for six hours with their hands in cuffs behind their backs, Sweeney said. He said they were told: “If you move or make any noise, we will shoot you.”
“They were hitting us in the face and in the back of the neck,” he said. “Not to the point of bleeding or I can’t say I have any lasting major scars at this point, but they were hitting us.”
Sweeney, 19, was arrested along with Luke Gates, 21, and Gregory Porter, 19.