Sweeney and two others were arrested in Egypt (Ministry of the Interior of Egypt)
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA)-- A Georgetown University junior is among three American students arrested by Egyptian Police during violent protests in Cairo.
Nineteen-year-old Derrik Sweeney of Jefferson City, Missouri and the other two college students are accused of throwing firebombs and rocks at security forces during mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
The demonstration comes just days before the scheduled parliamentary elections. Sweeney has a dual major-Arabic and psychology-and is an avid runner. He was on a semester abroad program at the American University in Cairo. Now, he's spending time in the custody of Egyptian Police.
"All we know at this point is that he's being held at a courthouse, which we're taking as a somewhat optimistic thing. It's not a prison," said his sister, Nicole Sweeney.
Egyptian state television showed video of the three college students-Sweeney is on the right-standing shoulder to shoulder, looking nervous. They're on display, along with their id cards and bottles that appear to be filled with liquid.
He believes in standing up for what you believe in, standing up for what you feel is right," said Joy Sweeney, Derrik's mother.
In addition to Sweeney, police arrested 21 year-old Luke Gates, an Indiana University student and 19 year-old Gregory Porter, from Drexel. State TV also aired cell phone video of the men wearing scarves across their faces during the protest.
"We always think as Americans that we have all of these rights, but clearly we don't especially in a country like Egypt, where there's so much political turmoil currently. So I mean that's really frightening," said Samantha Apgar, a Georgetown classmate.
On the Georgetown campus, classmates and faculty expressed shock at Sweeney's arrest.
"I guess the fragility of human relations, social interaction, international politics. It's fragile stuff," said Professor John Haughey.
"It looks pretty serious. At the same time, he seems pretty safe because he's American," said Ali Soroush, a Georgetown classmate from Iran. "I don't think he'll get a serious punishment like an Egyptian protestor might."
"I can almost see him as a student there, this is a revolutionary time, you want to be a part of it," said Sean Guilday, another Georgetown classmate.
Last spring, Sweeney interned for Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer whose office called him "a great worker and a real good kid." The Congressman has been in touch with the State Department to help try to secure Sweeney's release.
It is unclear what, if any, charges the three Americans are facing.
Written by Andrea McCarren
9NEWS NOW & WUSA9.COM