Tuesday 17 October 2017

Pictured: Moment Ibrahim Halawa learns he is leaving Egyptian prison after four years

  • 'Ibrahim always wished for it but finally he got it' - family's delight at verdict
  • Four year process ends after multiple delays and adjournments
  • Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs Minister welcome verdict
  • Hopes Ibrahim could be home as early as the weekend
  • Amnesty International: 'Nothing can ever excuse the horrific ordeal that Ibrahim has endured'
Ibrahim Halawa celebrates moments after his acquittal of various charges at the Wadi el-Natrun prison outside Cairo, Sept. 18, 2017. (Declan Walsh/The New York Times)
Credit: New York Times / Redux / eyevine
Ibrahim Halawa celebrates moments after his acquittal of various charges at the Wadi el-Natrun prison outside Cairo, Sept. 18, 2017. (Declan Walsh/The New York Times) Credit: New York Times / Redux / eyevine
Sisters of Ibrahim Halawa celebrating the news of his acquittal on charges relating to mass protests in Cairo four years ago. l-r; Somaia, Fatima, Khadiza and Somaia. Ballycullen, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Sisters of Ibrahim Halawa celebrating the news of his acquittal on charges relating to mass protests in Cairo four years ago. l-r; Somaia, Fatima, Khadiza and Somaia. Ballycullen, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Sisters of Ibrahim Halawa celebrating the news of his acquittal on charges relating to mass protests in Cairo four years ago. l-r; Somaia, Fatima, Khadiza and Somaia. Ballycullen, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Ibrahim Halawa

Robin Schiller and Laura Larkin

This is the moment Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa heard he was acquitted of various charges and set to leave Egyptian prison after four years.

Jumping up and down with tears in his eyes, Halawa hugged his fellow prisoners as his name was read out as one of those who had been acquitted of all charges.

Standing behind an iron mesh, Halawa spoke briefly to embassy officials that had attended the hearing.

It is not yet known when he will be officially released from prison, but the Halawa family have said they hope to welcome him home before the weekend.

Some of the prisoners present at the mass trial received lengthy jail sentences, with over 40 receiving life sentences.

The 21-year-old had been held in a Cairo jail since 2013.

Speaking outside their family home in Firhouse, Imbrahim's sisters Fatima, Omaima, Somaia and Khadija expressed their "relief" that their brother has finally been declared innocent.

"It's exciting because he can now live a normal life. He can eat from a plate with a normal spoon, he can use a proper bathroom, he can drink clean water, all these basic things," said Fatima.

"When you're in prison you can't use metal, only plastic. Being in prison, it's the hardest thing. Four years of your life in prison, to to be proven innocent. For the last four years he's been derived of his basic human necessities, and for him to come back...it's going to be great," Somaia said.

The family, who have not yet spoken to Ibrahim since this afternoon's verdict, also shared a message with the 21-year-old.

Sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, who is being held in Egypt
Sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, who is being held in Egypt

"Come home, we're waiting for four years for this to happen... you owe use big time"," Omaima joked.

Ibrahim Halawa was arrested along with hundreds of other individuals during peaceful protests against the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi.

The trial process had been beset by more than 30 adjournments but a verdict was finally delivered today.

Speaking on RTE Radio, Declan Walsh, Cairo bureau chief of the New York Times, said Ibrahim was jumping for joy and "absolutely delighted" with the result.

Somaia Halawa, Ibrahim's sister, watched the verdict being delivered with her family in Dublin and said that today's result has surpassed all their expectations.

"We weren't expecting it to get an innocent verdict.. Ibrahim always wished for it but finally he got it. Even in all his letters he said I know I haven't done anything, I know I should be proven innocent," she told Independent.ie earlier in the day.

But the family did not think it was plausible that an innocent verdict could be handed down "after having [a person]  in prison for four years and then saying he has been proven innocent" Somaia said.

When her brother's name was called and the verdict read out the family erupted into "screaming and crying".

She said that the family do not know yet when their brother will be released from custody and brought home to Ireland but they are hopeful his return could be as early as the weekend.

"It really depends on process and how fast it is. I'm sure the embassy will issue passport as soon as possible," Somaia said.

Independent.ie understands that his release from prison could take between three and five says and Mr Halawa's travel status also needs to be addressed before he is free to return home.

After four years of fighting to clear Ibrahim's name the family are looking forward to welcoming home with the help of his supporters. 

"I think I would like to have all the people who supported him to come to the airport for him to see how many amazing people he had behind him.. to see how much support he had," she said.

Somaia said there was a long list of people her family were grateful to and added that her family were heartened to receive a personal call from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Sunday night.

Nusayba Halawa, another of Ibrahim's sisters, told RTE Radio One: "We couldn't believe it... after all that suffering it's nearly coming to the end."

"We weren't expecting it," she added,

"We just heard the news a few minutes ago but we hope it is going to be soon [when he is released] and we hope he is going to be home very soon. I think that he has suffered a lot... I hope that he will be home soon," she said.

"Also I have to mention as well that there is a lot of people we met visiting Ibrahim and we had a lot of times with them and I felt really sorry for them because a lot of them got convicted. So I feel sorry for these people as well that they have to still suffer all that suffering that we suffered for four years."

Ibrahim's mother is due to undergo surgery tomorrow and the family were hoping that her spirits would be high after hearing some good news about her son.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wholeheartedly welcomed the conclusion to the "extraordinarily protracted case" case.

“Now that Ibrahim has been cleared of all charges, I expect he will be released as soon as possible and can return home to his family. The Government will facilitate his return home at the earliest opportunity."

After hearing the result Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said: “On behalf of the Government and on my own behalf I welcome the news from Cairo that Ibrahim Halwa has been acquitted. 

"This is the good news we had been hoping for.  Ibrahim Halawa’s name has been cleared and his innocence is confirmed.  I look forward to him being released from custody without delay.  

"My thoughts are with Ibrahim and his family at this time of great emotion for them."

He said the Government’s priority now is to support Ibrahim and his family in every way that they can in order to ensure that Ibrahim is able to return home to his family and friends as soon as possible.

"We are conscious that there will be some practical procedures and formalities to be gone through before Ibrahim will be able to fly back to Dublin, but my Department and our Embassy team will be assisting and supporting Ibrahim and his family to seek to ensure he gets home as soon as possible.”

President Michael D Higgins has also issued a statement welcoming the verdict.

“As President of Ireland I welcome the news that Ibrahim Halawa and his three sisters have today been acquitted of all charges brought against him, and them, in what has been a prolonged, distressing and draining experience," he said.

"Today’s decision brings to an end a long ordeal that Ibrahim, his family, friends and legal team have been put through.

"I am sure Ibrahim’s family are looking forward to the moment that Ibrahim will return to his home and loved ones," he said.

"I am sure they will have been sustained by the support of all those who have campaigned for his release over the last four years.

"It is appropriate, also, to acknowledge at this time the important efforts of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the staff at Ireland’s embassy in Cairo.”

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has said she will work with her colleagues to ensure there are supports put in place.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke by phone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi when the last trial was adjourned three weeks ago.

During the 25-minute phone call, the Taoiseach expressed his disappointment.

He made clear to Mr Al-Sisi that his priority was to secure the return of Mr Halawa to Ireland as soon as possible.

In a statement today Amnesty International said "some semblance of justice has been done".

"Nothing can ever excuse the horrific ordeal that Ibrahim has endured.  He spent more than four years locked up in harrowing conditions in in various different Egyptian prison cells, without access to proper medical care," Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said.

"He was unlawfully detained with no credible evidence to support the charges laid against him. In fact, not one shred of evidence was presented to the court against Ibrahim at any stage during this four year farcical mass trial process which was adjourned more than 30 times."

“Today, at last, Ibrahim’s nightmare is over. He must now be immediately released and allowed to return home to Ireland. Our expectation is that the Irish Government will continue to work on his behalf and ensure his prompt return home to his family and life here in Ireland."

Human right's group Reprieve also welcomed the verdict saying it was long overdue:

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