Saturday 16 December 2017

Returned Halawa sisters call for release of brother

Three Irish sisters held without trial in an Egyptian prison for more than three months have called for the release of their brother.

The Halawa siblings touched down in Dublin Airport where they were met by family, friends and supporters.

Sisters Omaima, 20, Fatima, 22, and Somaia, 27, and 17-year-old Ibrahim had been detained since August 17.

"We're relieved," said Fatima, from Firhouse, south Dublin, told Newstalk. "The excitement is overwhelming. I can't even speak.

"We are really happy. We are just thankful to everyone who's been supportive of us and been there and helped us in any way.

"We are just hoping that Ibrahim is released soon."

Ms Halawa said she was surprised their brother was not freed with them as they were all held in relation to the same case.

Ireland's embassy in Cairo remains in regular contact with the teenager, visiting him in prison and providing consular assistance.

The siblings, whose father Sheikh Hussein Halawa is the imam of Ireland's largest mosque, were holidaying in Egypt when arrested.

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

They were subsequently jailed in Tora prison and held separately since their arrest.

No specific charges were brought against the family and their detention had been extended on a number of occasions.

Sheikh Halawa said he can not contact his son by telephone and would not like the girls to return to Egypt.

"There is no security if they return," he said.

He said he was very grateful to everyone who helped get his daughters home safe.

"I feel very happy," he added.

"These are my daughters. This is my heart. I am very happy. I would like to thank all the people (who helped)."

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