Wednesday 28 September 2016

'Ibrahim is destroyed' - Family of Irish teen 'praying and hoping' his release from Egyptian jail is imminent

Sarah-Jane Murphy

Published 31/07/2015 | 08:05

Ibrahim Halawa's trial is due to begin this weekend
Ibrahim Halawa's trial is due to begin this weekend
Ibrahim Halawa’s sisters (from left) Fatima, Omaima and Somaia protesting at Leinster House last month

The sister of a young Irish citizen locked up in an Egyptian jail has said that she is "hopeful" he will be released following his scheduled court appearance on Sunday.

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Omaima Halawa (22) said that it has been very difficult for Ibrahim Halawa's family to deal with the repeated postponments of court proceedings.

"We just keep praying and hoping, we want him home with us where he belongs.

"We recently celebrated the muslim feast of Eid and I realised that it is nearly two years since all of us have been together as a family, someone always has to be in Egypt to be there for Ibrahim," she said.

Read More: Politicians 'ignored' over attempts to attend Halawa trial

Ibrahim Halawa (20), the son of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, the Imam of Ireland's largest mosque, was arrested in Cairo in August 2013, along with his sisters Somaia and Fatima.

The siblings had travelled to Egypt from their home in Ballycullen, Co Dublin, earlier in the summer for a holiday.

However, the four were forced to seek sanctuary in the Al Fateh mosque after violent clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and the security forces.

Read More: Ibrahim's two-year detention says much about Egypt today

Ibrahim, a Leaving Certificate student at the Institute of Education on Dublin's Leeson Street, and his siblings were subsequently jailed and held in separate sections.

While Ibrahim's sisters were quickly released, their teenage brother was kept in prison and has now been held for nearly 700 days without being charged with any offence.

Omaima told Newstalk Breakfast about the horrific conditions her younger brother must endure in one of country's toughest adult prisons, Al-Marg in Cairo, where disease and overcrowding are rampant.

"Ibrahim is destroyed. Life in the prison is just awful.

"Last Saturday criminals broke into the prison and set fire to it.

"The army and the police had to forcefully take back control of it.

"He said he could easily have been killed. It was a very dangerous situation," she said.

Omaima said that while she was very thankful for what the Irish Government had done for her brother to date, she feels they could do more for Ibrahim.

Read More: Halawa was tortured in Egyptian jail - lawyer

"No family of any person in a dangerous situation will ever think that the authorities are doing enough, they will always want more help," she said.

Omaima said her family had received amazing support from the Irish public.

She said that her brother has been forced to grow up over night due to the situation he found himself in.

"I last saw him in March and I found it hard to believe that he has survived so much and that his mental health is still intact."

Omaima said that despite the grim situation, Ibrahim still manages to enjoy the odd laugh with his sister Somaia when she visits him in prison.

"I want him back in Dublin so that he can complete his life and our family can finally be back together," she said.

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