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Sunday 15 September 2019

'Finally the day where I can see the sky without bars' - Ibrahim Halawa shares first message as a free man

Ibrahim Halawa in a picture on his Facebook page
Ibrahim Halawa in a picture on his Facebook page

Sean Nolan

Ibrahim Halawa has posted his first message to social media since his release, expressing how good it is to be released from prison as well as thanking those who helped secure his freedom.

The 21-year-old Dubliner was released from prison in Cairo on Thursday night but he is not expected to return to Ireland for a number of days.

In a post on his Facebook page, he said: "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. But I miss one thing and it's being home.

"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."

However, formalities will mean that it will be another few days before he can return to Ireland.

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Simon Coveney said that Mr Halawa needs to get an immigration stamp on his passport before he can return home.

"We need to get that immigration stamp. In order to do that he needs to turn up in person at the immigration ministry," said Mr Coveney.

"The timing and problem with that is we are in the Egyptian weekend, which is  Friday and Saturday.

"That office is not open on a Friday and has very limited opening on a Saturday so we are obviously working to get him home as quickly as possible but it will be either Sunday or Monday by the time he is home I suspect."

Ibrahim's sister Fatima told RTÉ News that the family are delighted with the news of his release.

"Last night was the first time in four years that we were able to sleep peacefully without guilt and we felt assured that Ibrahim was sleeping on a bed and was safe. That was really good.

"We don't know exactly when he is going to be back because there is some paperwork that needs to be done. There is holidays today in Egypt and tomorrow as well so we won't know exactly when these papers will be completed. We will have him on the first flight home. but it won't be before Sunday."

Fatima said that Mr Halawa has family around him in Egypt at the moment.

"Nosayba is over there and when she first saw him she fainted. She couldn't believe it. She has been to visit him before in the prison and it was weird hearing that upon seeing him on release, she fainted. It's amazing. He's there and she's with him."

Mr Halawa's mum was released from hospital yesterday, in time to hear the news with her family.

"It gave her reassurance. She went through surgery and was on the road to recovery. It felt good for her."

Fatima said that the family had "a long four years".

"Every day we waited for news. It happened and it's the best news ever. We have a lot of celebrations and catching up to do."

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a new passport for Mr Halawa in September.

He had spent four years in a Cairo prison after being arrested, along with hundreds of other individuals in 2013, during peaceful protests against the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi

Mr Halawa was acquitted of all charges at an Egyptian court on September 18 but his release from prison was not immediate.

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