Ibrahim Halawa’s sister Fatima has said her family was finally able to sleep peacefully last night after hearing of her brother’s release.
“It all happened all of a sudden. We didn’t expect that he was going to be released last night,” she said.
“We found out that he was transferred to the Al-Azbakeya police station on Wednesday evening and then there was talk that he was going to be released the next day but ultimately it all depended on the process and the papers being finished,” she told The Irish Times in Dublin on Friday morning.
Last night, Mr Halawa, from Firhouse, Tallaght, Co Dublin, was released from prison in Cairo, one month after his acquittal of all charges.
Mr Halawa, who was 17-years-old at the time, was detained in August 2013 following protests against the military coup in Egypt which took place on the 3rd of July that year.
Three of his five sisters; Fatima, Somaia and Omaima, were also detained following the protest but were released on bail three months later.
One of Mr Halawa’s sisters, Nosayba, has been in Egypt the past month awaiting his release. Fatima said Nosayba fainted when she saw Ibrahim.
“It felt weird because she’s seen him before a few times through prison visits, but I think it’s different when you see someone actually free.
“And I thought if she’s seen him for the past four years and we haven’t, I don’t know how it’s going to be when we finally meet him,” Fatima said.
Fatima said Nosayba had been told he was going to be released at around 4pm or 5 pm on Thursday “but nothing happened”.
“She was standing in front of the police station the whole day and by 10pm we hadn’t heard anything so we expected we probably won’t hear anything until Saturday because they don’t work on Friday.
"Fatima said they heard their father, Hussein Halawa, speaking loudly on the phone and she didn't understand what was happening.
‘Is Ibrahim out?’
“Suddenly he was rushing up the stairs and we realised he was talking to Ibrahim. Then I came out of the room and asked ‘is Ibrahim out?’ and he said ‘yes’.
“Then he gives the phone to me and we talk very briefly because the phone has to go around to everyone else,” she said.
“It was really weird because we felt so excited and we couldn’t sleep from the excitement. But a part of me felt that it was good to finally be able to sleep properly because for the past four years you always had that guilt at the back of your mind.
“You have that guilt that your brother is still in prison, lying on the floor and has been for the past four years and to finally to know that he’s able to walk as a free man.
“There’s nothing better than coming out of prison and realising you’re able to walk normally without someone telling you where to go or what to do, or without being handcuffed.
“That’s the best feeling you can ever give anyone. I think it put us all at ease and allowed us to sleep easily for the first time in four years.
“In the morning, Nosayba sent us a photo that Ibrahim took in the mirror. Nosayba was saying that he found it very weird to be able to see himself in the mirror,” said Fatima.
She continued: “In prison, you’re not allowed mirrors inside. So after four years to be able to see yourself, it feels so weird. That’s one of the weirdest things you experience when you’re released.
“We were in [PRISON]for three months and even then it felt so weird to finally look at ourselves in the mirror.”
Mr Halawa was one of 494 defendants in the mass trial which drew criticism for lengthy delays. The trial was adjourned at least 25 times in 4 years.On the 17th of September, Ibrahim was found innocent and was acquitted of all charges.
His three sisters, who were tried in absentia, were also acquitted. Mr Halawa’s release was delayed due to the slow processing of release papers by the Egyptian prison authorities.
The family have requested the Department of Foreign Affairs not to disclose any details of Mr Halawa's return to Ireland, including travel arrangements, until he is back in the country.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he expects Mr Halawa to return to Ireland on Sunday or Monday.