Getting Halawa home ‘as soon as possible’ is a priority, says Coveney

‘It is important that Ibrahim’s needs are immediately assessed,’ says Zappone

Minister for foreign affairs, Simon Coveney, has welcomed the decision by an Egyptian court to acquit Ibrahim Halawa of all charges against him. Video: Suzanne Lynch

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has welcomed the news from Cairo that Ibrahim Halawa and his sisters have been acquitted.

Mr Coveney, who is attending the ongoing UN General Assembly session in New York, said he looked forward to Mr Halawa being released without delay.

“On behalf of the Government and on my own behalf I welcome the news from Cairo that Ibrahim Halawa has been acquitted. This is the good news we had been hoping for,” he said.

“Ibrahim Halawa’s name has been cleared and his innocence is confirmed. I look forward to him being released from custody without delay. My thoughts are with Ibrahim and his family at this time of great emotion for them.”

Mr Coveney said the Government’s priority now was to support Mr Halawa and his family “in every way that we can,” in order to ensure Mr Halawa was able to return home to his family and friends as soon as possible.

“We are conscious that there will be some practical procedures and formalities to be gone through before Ibrahim will be able to fly back to Dublin, but my Department and our Embassy team will be assisting and supporting Ibrahim and his family to seek to ensure he gets home as soon as possible.”

Nosayba Halawa, Ibrahim’s sister, says her family was not expecting him to be acquitted today.

“We couldn’t believe it, after all the suffering. It is nearly coming to an end,” she told RTE’s News at One.

Ms Halawa, who was also acquitted of all charges along with her sisters Omaima and Somaia, said they were watching the trial via the internet.

They could not see Ibrahim, only the judge who gave the verdict.

“Our mother is going for a big surgery tomorrow, we had been hoping for some good news to help her spirits.”

She said that she thought Ibrahim would be very happy with the ruling, but that the family did not know when he would be released or would be home.

“I hope it is soon. He has suffered a lot.”

Ms Halawa added that the family felt very sorry for their co-accused who were still imprisoned and “still suffering”.

Taoiseach welcomes conclusion

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he expected Mr Halawa would be released as soon as possible.

“I wholeheartedly welcome this conclusion to what has been an extraordinarily protracted case,” Mr Varadkar said in a statement.

“Now that Ibrahim has been cleared of all charges, I expect he will be released as soon as possible and can return home to his family. The Government will facilitate his return home at the earliest opportunity.”

Mr Varadkar said he wanted to acknowledge the consular and diplomatic work undertaken on Mr Halawa’s behalf by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Irish Embassy in Cairo throughout the lengthy process.

“Following today’s verdict, they will continue to assist Ibrahim and his family to ensure he gets home as soon as possible,” he added.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone acknowledged the “work and dedication” of the Department of Foreign Affairs in what was “one of the most difficult consular cases in years”.

Ms Zappone, who is Ibrahim’s local TD, said her “thoughts, prayers and solidarity are with Ibrahim and his family, his dedicated legal team and everyone who I worked and campaigned with to bring us to this moment”.

She said it was important that “Ibrahim’s needs are immediately

assessed and any supports required put in place.

“Assessing his health, psychological and social needs must be the priority

and supports offered.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams also welcomed the news of Mr Halawa’s acquittal.

“It is now imperative that the Egyptian government guarantees his safe return to Ireland as soon as possible,” Mr Adams said.

“Ibrahim has spent four years in a jail far from his home and family. His incarceration represents a violation of his basic human rights.

“His physical and mental health suffered greatly as result of his imprisonment.

“His treatment by the Egyptian authorities was an affront to human decency.”