Latest: Haters 'made me stronger' says Ibrahim Halawa as he arrives home

Update 3.48pm: Ibrahim Halawa has said people who criticised him for supporting the rallies in Cairo in 2013 made him stronger.

The 21-year-old Irish man arrived at Dublin Airport this morning after spending four years in an Egyptian prison.

"I really want to thank the haters," he said. "They made me stronger, to come out and be ready for everything.

"Like they say, sticks and stones will break my bones..."

Mr Halawa said the sight of his mother in a wheelchair was difficult to take.

"It was depressing for me," he said.

Mr Halawa said he was feeling mixed emotions.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "Every day in prison I would imagine this day - how it's going to be. It's what made me go forward."

Mr Halawa added: "I'm looking forward to the future but I can't forget the past.

"It's going to make me work harder in the future.

"I feel hurt but I feel happy, obviously, reunited and back home."

Mr Halawa said he did not feel safe after his release from prison last week.

"I'm back into a new world. I was taken away from life and then, one second, you're back. It's going to be hard to recover."

Earlier: Ibrahim Halawa has arrived in Dublin airport after spending four years in an Egyptian prison.

Halawa told reporters on arrival: "It still feels like a dream... this is the moment I've waited for for four years."

He then outlined what he intends to do now that he's back in Ireland.

He said: "I've still left a lot of cell mates behind, there is still a lot of innocent people behind bars around the world, not just in Egypt.

"I'm going to hopefully be working to help release all the innocent people around the world."

Ibrahim’s return has been a long time coming for his family and friends.

They gathered at Dublin Airport with large signs to greet as he passed through the arrival gates.

His older sister Fatima is overjoyed at her brother's return.

She said: "It's amazing we've thought of this moment for so long but nothing can compare to actually seeing him and physically touching him and being in his arms once again, its beyond describable.

"Today is a big celebration, it is a day we will never forget."

His mum, dad, five sisters, brother, nieces and nephews were all there to greet him at Dublin Airport and got a private moment before Ibrahim faced the media.

His other sister Somia can’t believe he’s home.

She said: "I can't express how happy I am, I feel like I was born again today."

Ibrahim also left behind many close friends when he was imprisoned.

School friend Keith Maloney was among the first to hug him.

He said: "Four years, I've dreamt about it, lost sleep over it.

"If pure happiness is a thing, this is the closest I have got to it."

The family are now going to get away from a few days to allow Ibrahim recover.

Fatima says they may never let him out of their sights again.

Pete Maloney went to school with Ibrahim, and said it's an emotional day.

He said:"I spent years in school with him and I spent years out of school with him, we grew up together.

"When he left we wern't the same height, I was small and short, I haven't seen him in four years and the first thing he said was 'you're tall now, what happened my small friend?'

"He was always the big one and I was the small one but we worked, he is the best guy to have back, I couldnt be happier."

Ibrahim said the first thing he wants to eat back in Ireland is an old fashioned fish and chips.

The 21-year-old also said he will spend time with his ill mother and thanked the Government and his student's union before revealing that he hopes to go back to college.

Halawa flew back to Ireland with his sister, Nasaybi, and Ambassador to Egypt Sean O'Regan.

They landed in Dublin around 11am this morning.

Minister for Children and Independent TD Katherine Zappone was also there alongside Ibrahim's family to welcome him home.

Crowds gathered at arrivals in Dublin airport to greet him.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is happy Ibrahim has returned home after a difficult four years in Egypt.

He said: "I am delighted that Ibrahim Halawa has returned home to his family in Ireland after a long and extremely difficult ordeal in Egypt.

“I have met the Halawa family many times and I know they have longed for the day when Ibrahim would be back in Dublin with his family. This is a very special day for Ibrahim and his loved ones.

“During Ibrahim’s time in prison he received exceptional levels of consular care from officials in Cairo and Dublin; I thank all those involved.

“I wish Ibrahim all the best for the future.”

Earlier: Ibrahim Halawa will arrive back in Ireland today after four years in an Egyptian prison.

The Dubliner was released last week, and is due in Dublin Airport this morning.

Aged just 17 Ibrahim Halawa was arrested in 2013 and spent the next four years in prison after repeated delays to his mass trial.

Along with 500 others he was charged after a protest against a military coup in Cairo.

Mr Halawa, the son of prominent Dublin Muslim cleric Sheikh Hussein Halawa, was a student at the time.

His three sisters, Somaia, Fatima and Omaima, were also arrested during the crackdown on the 2013 protest but later released on bail and returned to Dublin.

They were acquitted following trial in absentia.

Ibrahim Halawa was cleared of all charges last month and on Thursday was released from prison.

His family have said they are preparing their home for his return as he gets ready to touch down on Irish soil for the first time in four years.

In an Instagram post Ibrahim Halawa thanked everyone who has helped him to get home, and says he is looking forward to arriving back in Dublin.


 

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