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Ibrahim Halawa: 'Finally the day where I can see the sky without bars'

The 21-year-old spent more than four years in jail.

Ibrahim Halawa free Source: Ibrahim Halawa/Facebook

Updated at 9.15pm

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.

This is Irishman Ibrahim Halawa’s first public response to being released from a prison in Cairo last night after being detained more than four years ago.

In a Facebook post, he thanked the embassy and everyone who helped him in his bid for freedom.

“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 said.

 

His release came just over one month after he was found not guilty by an Egyptian court.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Coveney said that Halawa was “in great form, he was tired but at the same time he was hugely excited”.

“No bitterness, just simply, I think, happy and relieved to wanted to get home and wanting to get on with his life,” Coveney said.

This is a great, great day for the Halawa family. I made it very clear to him that as far as we see him, he is as Irish as anybody else.

“He is an Irish citizen who had been in prison for four years when he shouldn’t have been and we want to get him home,” he said.

The 21-year-old had been arrested in 2013 during a protest in support of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, who had been ousted from power in a military coup.

His case was delayed 28 times before his legal team finally had a chance to defend him in court in early August. He was acquitted of all charges on 18 September.

Halawa is expected to return home to Ireland on “Sunday or Monday”, according to Coveney.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Coveney said that there are still some formalities required before Halawa can travel home to Ireland.

“Ibrahim no longer has the passport that he had when he went to Cairo over four years ago now,” Coveney said.

“We’ve issued him with a new passport but that, of course, is a clean passport. When he goes to the airport he’s not going to have an immigration stamp on that passport, which will pose problems for him at customs and security at the airport,” he said.

In order to be able to fly home, Halawa needs to get his immigration stamp on his new passport. To get the stamp, he must turn up in person to the immigration ministry.

“The timing and the problem with that is that we are now in the Egyptian weekend, which is a Friday and Saturday,” Coveney said.

That immigration office isn’t open on a Friday and has very limited opening on a Saturday.
It’ll either be Sunday or Monday by the time he’s home.

Travelling home

Coveney said that Hawala’s release was “somewhat unexpected last night actually, as he was released at 11pm last night from the police station that he was originally detained in”.

He added that Halawa and his family have asked for privacy and do not wish to make a big deal about his homecoming.

The Irish ambassador in Egypt will travel with Halawa back to Ireland, according to Coveney.

“The quickest way to get him home is on commercial flights and I think that’s what the family want also,” he said.

Reaction

President Michael D Higgins, who is on a State visit to Australia, welcomed Halawa’s release.

In a statement, Higgins wished Halawa well.

The release of Ibrahim Halawa will come as a great relief to his family.

“It will be welcomed by all those who were concerned for him in his long ordeal of imprisonment.

I wish Ibrahim Halawa well on his journey home.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “It is thanks to the determined work of his lawyers and campaigning of his family, friends and Amnesty activists that his horrific ordeal has finally come to an end.

“Ibrahim should never have had to endure this horrendous experience. He has lost four years of his young life and nothing can ever excuse that injustice. Thankfully, his nightmare is finally over and he can now begin to move on with his life.”

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

Read: ‘The nightmare is over’: Ibrahim Halawa has been released from prison in Egypt

More: Full coverage of Ibrahim Halawa’s case

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