Ibrahim Halawa: ‘It still feels like it happened to another person’

21-year-old from Firhouse spent four years in jail in Egypt after being arrested at 2013 protest

Ibrahim Halawa  at Dublin Airport in October  after spending four years in an Egyptian prison. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

Ibrahim Halawa at Dublin Airport in October after spending four years in an Egyptian prison. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

 

Ibrahim Halawa has said he is still suffering from stomach pains and is being treated for a heart condition after four years of maltreatment in prison in Egypt.

Mr Halawa, from Firhouse, Tallaght, in south Dublin, was released from prison in Cairo in October, a month after his acquittal on all charges relating to a protest against the military coup in Egypt in 2013.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk on Tuesday, Mr Halawa said it had been very tough physically and psychologically to go through what he had experienced.

He said he found it distressing to hear people say he looked too well when he was released and that he must not have been badly treated.

The 21-year-old told of how “surreal” it is to be home. “It still feels like it happened to another person. How did I go through that?”

He told of how he feared he would be executed “24/7” and that there was no respect of human rights within the nine prisons in which he was incarcerated.

“I was tortured, beaten and treated very badly. Every time I needed something I went on hunger strike. I set the highest demand, which was to go home and then asked to make conditions better.”

Mr Halawa said in the beginning he had thought he would be released within days, then weeks and then months. However, he said that towards the end he feared he would never be released and would die in prison.

He did not expect the support from Ireland to be “as big or as heartwarming as it was.”

“I didn’t tear up my passport as some people claimed. Just ask the ambassador, he knows where my passport is.”

Mr Halawa was adamant that he is not, nor was he, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He said that while in Cairo, three of his friends died - two were killed during protests with the third dying in prison.

“I always said I was opposed to the killing of innocent people. I said they should use the ballot box to bring about change.”