Ibrahim Halawa had four years to dream up his post-release wishlist but he had just two simple requests for his family after he was finally freed from prison.
“The first things he asked us for was his bedroom and the fridge,” said his sister Somaia. “He told us: ‘Have my room ready and the fridge full when I get home.’
“His bedroom is here ready for him so we can do that. And we’ll fill the fridge — we’ll give him the bill later. He can pay us in the chores we saved up for him.”
Speaking at the family home in Firhouse, Dublin, which was awash with wellwishers yesterday, Somaia said they were still overwhelmed with joy at the news of Ibrahim’s release.
The family received an indication there might be developments on Thursday but, after 9pm, with no news emerging from Cairo and the weekend shutdown looming on Friday, they resigned themselves to another wait.
However, then shortly before 11pm, when all but their father had headed for bed, they heard the phone ring and then the delighted roars of their father. Ibrahim was on the other end of the line, shouting: “Dad, I’m free. I’ve left prison. I’m free.”
“He’s over the moon, he’s just so happy. He just can’t express how happy he is. He is trying to enjoy every minute and take it all in,” said Somaia.
She and sisters Fatima and Omaia were all arrested with Ibrahim, then 17, during a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in Cairo where they were holidaying with relatives in August 2013. Since the sisters were freed three months later, they have campaigned tirelessly to secure Ibrahim’s release. The mass trial which saw him charged and tried along with almost 500 others finally concluded a month ago, with Ibrahim being cleared of all charges.
He remained in prison, however, as procedural delays prevented his release.
“We still don’t have much detail of when he will leave Egypt because he overstayed his visa so there are travel documents to sort out and other paperwork but we hope it won’t be much longer,” said Somaia. “We’re just telling him to relax and enjoy this moment and we’ll see him soon.”
Despite the international publicity Ibrahim’s case has generated, the family are hopeful of a low-key homecoming. His mother was recently diagnosed with cancer and only left hospital hours before she learned of her son’s release.
Earlier, Ibrahim posted a message on Facebook, in which he shared his delight at being free.
“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 also expressed his thanks to the Irish embassy team in Cairo and everyone who helped him.
The Egyptian embassy in Ireland welcomed Ibrahim’s release, and said it had been working in closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The embassy said: “Our efforts were only part of the continued efforts of both political leaders, their governments, and the respective ministers of foreign affairs seeking to overcome the challenges related to this matter.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved