Saturday 21 April 2018

'I can see sky without bars': Ibrahim's joy at jail release

Ibrahim Halawa after his release from prison in Cairo
Ibrahim Halawa after his release from prison in Cairo

Ryan Nugent

The father of Ibrahim Halawa has told of his family's joy after his son was released from an Egyptian prison after four years.

It is expected the 21-year-old will be home on Monday or Tuesday after he finally walked free from jail.

The Dubliner was released from prison in Cairo on Thursday night but cannot return to Ireland until after the weekend due to passport issues.

It is understood that Mr Halawa, from Firhouse, south Dublin, needs to get an immigration 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, Mr Halawa 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 said.

Home

"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," he added.

Mr Halawa was arrested in Cairo and held in an Egyptian prison for four years on charges relating to a protest in 2013.

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

His father, Hussein Halawa - who is imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland - told the Irish Independent of the moment he spoke on the phone to his son after his release.

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

"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," he added.

His sister Fatima said they had initially expected to hear of her brother's release on Thursday afternoon.

However, as the evening drew on, they began 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 [speaking to Ibrahim on the phone]."

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

The family intend to hold a party when Mr Halawa returns from Egypt, though they said the most important thing was to ensure he returned healthy, both mentally and physically, following the ordeal he has been through.

"Everything he is experiencing is as if it is for the first time," Fatima said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said they expected his return to be completed in the coming days.

"There are still a small number of formalities that need to be completed before Ibrahim departs Egypt," the spokesperson said.

Resolved

"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," he added.

Irish Independent

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