American Students Home after Egypt Ordeal

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The three American students arrested during the violent protests in Cairo, Egypt, returned to the U.S. on Sunday.

Derrik Sweeney, Luke Gates, and Gregory Porter were studying abroad at American University in Cairo, which is near Tahrir Square.

Following their arrest, Sweeney said they were told they would be shot if they moved or made any noise.

"It was the most frightening experience of my life, I believe," he said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

Sweeney said the evening of Nov. 20 started peacefully in Cairo, with Tahrir Square "abuzz with ideas of democracy and freedom."

The trio wound up in a large group of protesters outside the Interior Ministry building. When the protests turned violent, with rock throwing and gunfire, the three retreated with some others in the crowd to a calmer area.

Sweeney said that's when they were approached by three or four plainclothes police officers and taken into custody.

The police threatened to force-feed them with gasoline and beat them. They had to lie in a near-fetal position in the dark for six hours with their hands cuffed behind their backs.

Egyptian officials said they arrested the American students on the roof of a university building and accused them of throwing Molotov cocktails at security forces.

Sweeney denied the charges, saying they weren't doing anything to harm anyone.

"I don't know where that rooftop idea actually came from," he said. "We were never on a rooftop. We never entered a building."

"The American University campus building on that street where we were arrested -- there were a lot of people who had broken in there, it was swarmed with protesters -- but we were not on there," he said. "We were on a street."

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