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Monday, May 26, 2014
Egyptian teen science whiz defects to US after science fair
A teenager from Egypt accused of illegally protesting the Egyptian
government defected to the US after participating in an international
high school science fair held in Los Angeles.
"Abdullah Assem, 17, decided not to board a Cairo-bound plane Sunday for fear he would be arrested upon landing," reports the LA Times.
"For the last four days he has stayed with family friends in Los
Angeles County while he seeks asylum in the US." He was one of 1,787
teens who took part in a six-day International Science and Engineering
Fair sponsored by Intel at the Los Angeles Convention Center last week.
From Bob Pool at the LAT:
His project, "Eye Detection and Tracking-Based
Communication System for Tetraplegia Patients," had qualified for the
competition through one of the program's 450 preliminary science fairs.
His research involved the use of eyeglasses and motion sensors to enable
quadriplegics to use computers.
Assem said that after his arrest [in Egypt], he spent
the first 24 hours in state security detention in downtown Cairo’s
Lazoghly. He was handcuffed, blindfolded, and assaulted. One official
began to set the boy’s shirt on fire, while it was still covering his
torso. Assem jumped up and down until another official doused the
flames. He was made it sit in an awkward position on the floor for his
Assem made his way from the sofa to the carpeted floor to show me the
position he had to maintain. I had to imagine the blindfold and
Officials insulted him. “You are a kaza,” Assem retold, too modest to
say the actual curses. One of Assem’s captors, the boy says, caressed
his body with a knife, saying, “I can hurt you with this. Stab you
here.” The knife’s blade kept moving. “Cut you here.”
Assem was called a terrorist, and told that he had stolen two tanks. The
story changed slightly to two police cars. “They found it illogical to
say that I stole tanks, so they changed it to cars,” Assem said. He had
also been accused of carrying a weapon, perhaps his eye-tracking
After his dark night in Cairo, officials from Assiut took the boy back
to Upper Egypt. Still handcuffed, he was transported in the bed of a
covered security vehicle, tumbling about like a ragdoll on the five-hour
“I screamed. I cried,” he recalled.