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Lawyer: Egyptian teen inventor to seek asylum

May 19, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Egyptian teenager who traveled to the United States to showcase an invention at a science fair has decided to seek asylum, fearing he will be arrested if he returns home, his lawyer said Monday.

Abdallah Assem, 17, will submit his application to American immigration authorities for asylum from political persecution, said Farida Chehata, an immigrant rights attorney at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in greater Los Angeles.

Assem, a high school student from Assiut, has been an outspoken critic of the current government. He was arrested last month and accused of demonstrating and torching police cars, which he denies, Chehata said.

Egyptian authorities released Assem and let him attend last week’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles to present an invention focused on helping the disabled communicate through medical eyeglasses, Chehata said. Initially, she said, authorities would not let him travel to California.

“He’s somewhat of a genius. That’s some of the reason he has all this media attention on him,” Chehata said.

Messages were sent to the Embassy of Egypt in Washington seeking comment.

In Egypt, many youth groups have been critical of the military’s management of the transition following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 — and the subsequent crackdown on dissent after Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s ouster last summer of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Assem, who is staying with a family friend in Southern California, made the decision to remain in the U.S. with support from his parents, who also fear he will be arrested at home, Chehata said.

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