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Egypt frees Irish citizen held for four years for 'terrorism'

Ibrahim Halawa, 21, of Dublin, released on Wednesday after three-week wait following acquittal on all charges
Ibrahim Halawa, photographed after his release (screengrab)

An Irish citizen held in an Egyptian prison on "terrorism" charges for more than four years was finally released, weeks after being cleared of all accusations against him.

Ibrahim Halawa, 21, of Dublin, was cleared last month of all charges connected to mass protests in Cairo in August 2013 on the Muslim Brotherhood's so-called "Day of Rage".

He had been arrested aged 17 and was facing the death penalty if found guilty of charges including the murder of 44 people and the possession of firearms.

Those charges were dismissed on 18 September. However, he was kept waiting for weeks for release, with Egyptian authorities saying they had not prepared the proper paperwork.

He was freed late on Wednesday.

The Irish president, Michael Higgins, welcomed the news.

"The release of Ibrahim Halawa will come as a great relief to his family. It will be welcomed by all those who were concerned for him in his long ordeal of imprisonment. I wish Ibrahim Halawa well on his journey home," he said in a statement.

A statement on the Free Ibrahim Halawa Facebook page run by his supporters said: "Fantastic news, Ibrahim has finally been released from prison. We will now begin to make arrangements to bring him home where he belongs in Ireland.

"We can't thank enough all those who worked so hard for Ibrahim's release, we owe you all so much."

His three sisters, Somaia, Fatima and Omaima were also arrested in 2013 but were later released on bail and returned to Dublin. All were acquitted in later trials.

Halawa's release was delayed as Egypt processed the acquittals and sentences of all those charged in his mass trial - about 400 defendants.

His family has not yet commented directly on the news. Last week, Fatima said the family was “frustrated and extremely on edge”.

“We thought they’d be back by now but it’s but every week it's another let down for us,” she said.

Halawa was kept in solitary confinement with no light or toilet for long periods. His family said he was beaten and denied medical treatment for a gunshot wound to a hand he suffered shortly before his arrest.

Maya Foa, director of human rights organization Reprieve, which has been assisting Ibrahim, said: "Ibrahim and his family have been through an unimaginable ordeal, even though Ibrahim's only 'crime' was to attend a protest."

She added: "He must now be given time and space to recover with his family. Meanwhile, Egypt's allies – including the UK and the US – must strongly urge Sisi to end the brutal repression that continues in the country, including mass trials and hundreds of unlawful death sentences."

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