Ibrahim Halawa may have to wait week for Dublin return
Legal procedures and travel document issues will delay release from Cairo jail
It may be next week before Ibrahim Halawa can return to Ireland, despite his acquittal in court in Cairo on Monday after spending four years in prison in Egypt awaiting trial.
Irish diplomats say they will be pressing for Mr Halawa’s early return to his home in Dublin after he was acquitted on charges relating to a 2013 protest in Cairo against the ousting of then president Mohamed Morsi.
However, sources warned the Egyptian system is “unpredictable and hard to read” and a number of procedures will have to be gone through before the 21 year old can fly back to Ireland.
The possibility of an appeal by the state prosecutor is not being ruled out, though this could only be on a point of law and is seen as unlikely.
The court that acquitted Mr Halawa as part of a mass trial that saw 43 other prisoners get life sentences must first inform the interior ministry of its decision before the release process can get under way. “It wouldn’t be unusual for five or six working days to pass before someone emerges from prison in these kinds of circumstance,” said a source familiar with Egyptian processes.
In addition, Mr Halawa has no passport since his Irish travel document expired when he was in prison. The Department of Foreign Affairs will issue him with an emergency travel document but he will have to present this in person to the Egyptian authorities to have it stamped.
Officials expect to have dealings with the Egyptian security services amid fears Mr Halawa may be on their no-fly list.
Irish Ambassador in Cairo Seán O’Regan, who was present in court to witness Mr Hallawa being acquitted, said: “We are very happy to see Ibrahim acquitted and we look forward to facilitating his return to Ireland as soon as possible, taking account of Egyptian procedures.”
The court in Cairo also acquitted Mr Halawa’s sisters Somaia, Fatima and Omaima in absentia. They left Egypt in November 2013 after receiving bail and returned to Ireland.
The court’s verdict received an overwhelmingly positive response in Ireland, where President Michael D Higgins described the protracted trial process as a “prolonged, distressing and draining experience”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who spoke last month to Egyptian president Mohamed Abdul Fattah al-Sisi about the case, said he expected Mr Halawa to be released “as soon as possible”.
Opposition politicians had pressed for additional measures, including legal action, to secure Mr Halawa’s release, but Government officials feared this might prove counterproductive with the Egyptians.