The three 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 to the Associated Press by Skype from 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.
He said they fled to an area that seemed calmer and were approached by four or five Egyptians in plainclothes. The Egyptians 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 a near-fetal position 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, studies at Georgetown University. He was arrested along with Luke Gates, 21, who attends Indiana University and is from Bloomington, Ind., and Gregory Porter, 19, who studies at Drexel University and is from Glenside, Pa.
The students flew home Saturday after an Egyptian court ordered their release two days earlier. The three were studying abroad at American University in Cairo.
Egyptian officials said they arrested the three students on the roof of a university building and accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters. Sweeney denied doing anything to harm anyone and said he and the other Americans weren't ever on the roof.
The students took separate flights out of Egypt, and Porter and Gates declined to recount details of their experience.