herald

Tuesday 16 January 2018

'Is it a dream?' - Ibrahim's first question to sister as four years in Cairo jail finally over

lbrahim Halawa.
lbrahim Halawa.

Ibrahim Halawa's family have spoken of his delighted reaction to his release from prison in Egypt, and how they expect him back at their Dublin home by Monday or Tuesday after being locked up for four years.

His father, Hussein Halawa - who is Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland - told the Herald of his son's reaction after he spoke to him by phone late on Thursday night.

"When he spoke to me, he said, 'My father, I'm free, I'm free, I'm free. Now I can see everything'," said Mr Halawa.

"He couldn't believe that he was finally out of prison.

"He kept asking his sister, 'Is it a dream or is it true'. He just kept asking that."

lbrahim Halawa’s father Hussein and sister Fatima celebrate his release. Photo: Collins Dublin
lbrahim Halawa’s father Hussein and sister Fatima celebrate his release. Photo: Collins Dublin

Acquitted

Although the 21-year-old was freed from prison in Cairo on Thursday, he cannot return to Ireland until after the weekend due to passport issues.

It is understood that Ibrahim, from Firhouse, needs to get an official stamp on his Irish visa from the immigration ministry.

However, Friday and Saturday are weekend days in Egypt, meaning the office will not be open until tomorrow.

Reacting to his release, Ibrahim posted a message online. "Finally the day where I can see the sky without bars, smell fresh air , walk freely and smile deeply from the bottom of my heart," he wrote.

"But I miss one thing and it's being home.

Fatima with a photo of her freed brother. Photo: Collins Dublin
Fatima with a photo of her freed brother. Photo: Collins Dublin

"I wanna thank the team at the embassy who worked very hard. The ambassador Sean O'Regan, former ambassador Damien Cole, Shane Gleeson, Vincent Herlihy.

"Thank you to everyone who helped. I love you all."

Ibrahim was arrested in Cairo and held in prison for four years on charges relating to a 2013 protest in the Egyptian capital.

He was acquitted of all charges on September 18, following a succession of delays in his trial.

Ibrahim's sister Fatima said they had expected to hear he was free on Thursday afternoon and, as the evening drew on, they had begun to lose hope.

"By 10, we all went up to bed," she said. "Suddenly we heard Dad on the phone.

"He was quite loud - which was unusual - screaming in a way.

"We're thrilled, it's amazing, really. It just feels so good and as a family we're really delighted,"

The family will hold a party when Ibrahim returns from Egypt, although they say the most important thing is to ensure he returns healthy, both mentally and physically.

Fatima said what her brother has been through may have taken its toll and his health is the top priority for everyone in the family.

"Everything he is experiencing is as if it is for the first time," she added.

Formalities

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs revealed that Ibrahim's return is expected to be completed by the end of the weekend.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade welcomes the confirmation that Ibrahim Halawa has been released from prison and is finally at liberty," he said.

"He is being supported by the Irish ambassador in Cairo, Sean O'Regan, and his team.

"There are a small number of formalities to be completed before Ibrahim departs Egypt.

"Ibrahim will continue to receive the assistance of the Irish Embassy in Cairo, and a member of the embassy team will accompany him on his journey back to Ireland when he is ready to travel.

"It is hoped that the remaining formalities can be resolved once the relevant offices in Cairo reopen after the weekend there."

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