Tuesday 25 June 2019

'Racist people are going to be racist' - Ibrahim Halawa denies involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood on Late Late Show

Credit: RTE
Credit: RTE
Credit: RTE
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Ibrahim Halawa denied any involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood and addressed rumours surrounding his four year imprisonment in Eqypt on Friday's Late Late Show.

"Of course I'm not with the Muslim Brotherhood, at 17 you don't know what that is," he said.

The Irish man had been arrested in Cairo during mass protests in 2013 but was acquitted of all charges last month after a long legal battle.

The 21-year-old was released from prison in Cairo last month and returned home to Firhouse in Dublin last week.

He describes his life in Ireland prior to the arrest, opting to study engineering in college and planning to go on a Leaving Certificate holiday to Ibiza.

"The plan wasn't to go to prison. The plan was to go to Ibiza with my friends," he said.

Ibrahim said that his father encouraged him to first go to Egypt to visit his extended family. "It was a family holiday, some people say I went there for the protest but I didn't," he said.

"If I wanted to be politically active in Egypt I would have went [there] when the revolution was on...Racist people are going to be racist."

When asked by presenter Ryan Tubridy how a family holiday ended up with him seemingly forefront at the Cairo protest, Ibrahim said it all started with him "chilling" at the cinema.

"I didn't know there was a political game going on in Egypt, I didn't know anything about that," he said.

Ibrahim then translated his words from a clip shown of him on stage speaking at the protest.

"I said that I've just arrived from Ireland and the reason that I was on stage, getting politically involved, [because] I had two of my really close friends who were shot dead at an incident before that," he said.

"At the end of the video I said: 'What do we want? Freedom. When do we want it? Now.'"

Ibrahim said he met friends at Rabaa Square who "shared their political views" but said he needed to see what the opposition was thinking so he went to Tahrir Square with his brother.

"I didn't agree with what was going on with the Muslim Brotherhood being in charge of the Government at the time - but they were the elected people and they were democratically elected whether anyone likes it or not," he said.

"I was saying 'use the ballot box to get them out', 'don't use a military coup that will kill people' and those two people were my friends."

Ibrahim said that the Rabaa massacre occurred two days before he sought refuge in a mosque and was later arrested.

"I was going back to Ireland in two days - but I was going back to a concert and my friends were going back to graves. I had to do something. I just had to give my opinion about that," he said.

Footage of Ibrahim being filmed as he took refuge in the mosque with his sisters was then shown on the RTE show.

"It's freedom of speech, I didn't think I was going to get arrested for it. That's why I seem so frustrated in the video," he said.

"It was my last words...you're a man and you're going to see your three sisters die."

Over the last four years, Ibrahim spent time in a total of nine prisons in Egypt, and shared some harrowing details of his prison life.

In his first four days, he said there was 170 people placed in a 30 person capacity cell and served scraps of food.

"We'd swap places sleeping, half of the people would sit for half an hour and the rest would be standing. Then we'd switch around," he said.

He describes a terrifying type of initiation process when he was moved to each prsion.

"There are very long two rows of soldiers, one on the right and one on the left, and you have to run through because every soldier has a different weapon that he's going to beat you with."

"They call it the 'party'; it's to show that 'this is my prison and this is how it is going to be'". 

Ibrahim also spoke about what it is like to finally be free and what he intends on doing next.

"It's hard as you're in such a small space with so many people for four years and then you're just out in a huge space, it's just crazy. It's terrifying," he said.

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