Ibrahim Halawa’s sister criticises negative social media comments

Ibrahim’s release from Cairo prison may run into next week due to administrative delays

Ibrahim Halawa's sister Fatima was "overwhelmed with joy" following her brother's acquittal after spending over four years in an Egyptian prison. Video: Patsy McGarry

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Irish diplomats have made initial contact with the Egyptian authorities about the release of Ibrahim Halawa following his acquittal on Monday.

Mr Halawa, who has spent over four years in a jail in Cairo, remained behind bars on Tuesday despite the court’s decision. His release is expected to take a number of days and may even run into next week.

Diplomatic sources say they expect his release date to be determined by a timetable dictated by Egyptian administrative rules. Usually this involves a three- or four-day period in which acquittals are processed, or even longer.

The Government has called for Mr Halawa’s early return after he was acquitted on charges relating to a 2013 protest in Cairo against the ousting of then president Mohamed Morsi.

The Egyptian system is unpredictable and opaque, and a number of procedures will have to be gone through before the 21-year-old can fly back to Ireland. There is also the possibility, albeit only slight, of an appeal by the state prosecutor.

The court must first inform the interior ministry of its decision before the release process can get under way. In addition, the Department of Foreign Affairs will issue him with an emergency travel document as his Irish passport has expired.

Sisters acquitted

Irish Ambassador in Cairo Seán O’Regan, who was present in court to witness Mr Halawa being acquitted, said: “We have begun following up with the Egyptian authorities with the aim of securing Mr Halawa’s release.”

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.

Speaking at the family home in Firhouse, Dublin, Fatima said the support from the Irish people had been “amazing”. The family had received “letters and texts and invitations ... It’s just beautiful, from people I’ve never seen or met”.

Some of the negative commentary about her brother and the family on social media “definitely” got to her personally, while others in the family “just ignored it”.

It hurt her “because I grew up here. Ibrahim was born here.”

“Definitely it [social media commentary] was hurtful but at some point you have to understand that some people like to benefit from other people’s pain and suffering. It says more about who they are and not who I am.”

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