Belfast Telegraph

Irishman's joy at being freed from Egyptian jail

An Irishman released from an Egyptian jail after four years behind bars has described his joy at being a free man.

Ibrahim Halawa's release came a month after he was acquitted of all charges related to a mass Muslim Brotherhood protest in Cairo in 2013.

The 21-year-old from Firhouse in Dublin posted a message on Facebook thanking all those who had worked to secure his release, particularly staff at the Irish embassy.

"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 wrote.

"But I miss one thing and it's being home."

He added: " Thank you to everyone who helped. I love you all."

Mr Halawa is expected to fly home in the coming days once a number of immigration requirements are completed in Egypt.

He was jailed after being arrested in a mosque amid protests over the removal of the then Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. He was one of almost 500 people in a protracted mass trial.

His three sisters, Somaia, Fatima and Omaima, were also arrested during the crackdown on the 2013 protest but later released on bail and returned to Dublin. They were acquitted following trial in absentia.

Back in Dublin there were joyous scenes at the Halawa home as his family reacted to news of his release.

Somaia Halawa spoke of their joy.

"Yesterday was a day I can't describe, we were all over the moon," she said.

"Finally we were able to sleep for the first time in four years.

"I was able to finally continue my life normally, I was able to laugh without trying to pretend I am okay, trying to pretend everything was okay when it was not."

She hailed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney's efforts to secure her brother's release.

"They worked so hard towards getting him released," she told BBC Radio Ulster.

Mr Varadkar has said his government is working to reunite him with his family.

Giving his response to the release as he arrived for the European Council summit in Brussels, the Taoiseach said: "Really, really delighted to hear that Ibrahim Halawa has been released from prison."

"He's receiving full consular assistance at the moment.

"We are helping him to get back to Ireland to be reunited with his family and get on with his life and his studies."

"He spent far too long in an Egyptian prison."

He also appealed for the family's wishes for privacy to be respected.

Mr Coveney said he expected Mr Halawa to return to Ireland on Sunday or Monday.

He explained that he needed to get an immigration stamp from the Egyptian authorities before he could fly home.

Mr Halawa was cleared last month of all charges connected to mass protests during the Muslim Brotherhood's so-called Day of Rage.

A student and son of a prominent Muslim cleric in Dublin, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, he was prosecuted in a mass trial after being detained in a mosque near Ramses Square in Cairo.

He was 17 at the time of his arrest.

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