Irish citizen held in Egypt for 4 years returns home

Dublin (AFP) –


An Irish citizen of Egyptian background who was detained in Egypt for four years on accusations of taking part in clashes with police flew home to an emotional family reunion at Dublin airport on Tuesday.

"Thank you all for being here, it means a lot to me," a beaming and emotional Ibrahim Halawa, who was dressed in jeans and a baseball cap, told well-wishers who applauded as he came out at the terminal.

The 21-year-old was arrested when he was just 17, after clashes in August 2013 between police and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Halawa, who grew up in Firhouse near Dublin, said his priority now was to look after his sick mother and expressed regret at leaving behind "a lot of innocent people" still being detained.

At the time of his arrest, Halawa and his three sisters were in a mosque. His sisters were released in November 2013 but he was charged with murder, arson and illegal possession of a firearm.

Halawa, who was acquitted in September and released last week, was being prosecuted as part of a mass case with hundreds of other defendants, many of whom have received heavy prison sentences.

The Irish government campaigned for his release, along with human rights groups including Amnesty International.

Since Morsi's ouster, Egyptian authorities have carried out a sweeping crackdown against supporters and members of the toppled president's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements.