Updated at 3pmSource: TheJournal.ie/YouTube
IBRAHIM HALAWA HAS thanked his supporters, the government and his legal team after arriving back in Dublin this morning, four years after he was arrested for taking part in a protest in Egypt.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, at the request of Halawa, made arrangements for him to be reunited with his family in a private area of Dublin Airport.
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone also met him and his family at the airport. Speaking to TheJournal.ie, she said that the family were an “inspiring group” of people who had showed “great determination” during Ibrahim’s imprisonment.
Later, he spoke to reporters at the arrival hall of Terminal 1, saying that he wanted to help those “cell mates he’s left behind” in the Cairo prison he had been released from.
“…A lot of innocent people behind bars you know around the world, not just in Egypt. I’m going to help to get them released maybe around the world Irish people, even if they’re criminals and convicted abroad, I’m going to be asking for them to come back and do their time in Ireland,” Halawa said.
He also added that he wanted to help “a lot of homeless people I have a lot of ideas for that”.
“But right now I need to get my life straight and go back to college and get my career done.”
He said that next, he would be getting medical checks and taking some time off, as well as spend some time with his family.
“I’d imagined this moment,” he said. “The Irish people have been sending me letters and people from around the world – it’s great. I’m very happy, it’s great.”
Referencing critics of the campaign to bring him home, he said he also wanted to thank “the haters” for keeping him going during his time in prison.
He said that time in prison was “very hard” but that he would release a press release at a later date on that subject.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney earlier released a statement to confirm that Halawa had arrived in Dublin accompanied by his sister Nosayba and Ireland’s ambassador to Egypt Sean O’Regan.
“I am delighted to confirm that Ibrahim Halawa has now arrived back in Ireland and been reunited with his family.
This is a very happy day for Ibrahim and his family, and a day of great joy also for all of his friends and supporters.
Coveney said that Halawa’s case had been “one of the most complex, sensitive and difficult consular cases to which the Irish government has ever responded”.
“There were some difficult and dark times, but sight was never lost of our two key objectives – to get Ibrahim home, and to do everything possible to safeguard his rights and welfare for as long as he remained in the custody,” Coveney said.
It is understood that Halawa will spend a number of days at a private location with family members.
“He will need time and space in the period ahead and I hope that his privacy and that of his family will be respected,” Coveney said.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also released a statement to welcome the 21-year-old home. Flanagan, who previously served as Foreign Affairs Minister, said it was a “very special day for Ibrahim and his loved ones”.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who was part of an Irish delegation who travelled to Egypt to meet with the Dubliner at the start of the year, said he could “only imagine the relief and joy Ibrahim’s family must be feeling now that he is back on Irish soil”.
Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, who also campaigned for Halawa’s release, was among the group of supporters at Dublin Airport this morning.
She said that it had been two years since she first met him in the Cairo prison and the reaction he received today in Dublin Airport had been “overwhelming”.
Halawa was arrested during a protest in 2013 in support of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi who had been ousted from power in a military coup.
The hearing of Halawa’s case was delayed 28 times before his legal team finally had a chance to defend him in court in early August.
Speaking on his release from prison earlier this month, Halawa 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.
- With reporting by Hayley Halpin, Daragh Brophy and Garreth MacNamee