By Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty Ireland Executive Director
On October 24 2017, Ibrahim Halawa arrived home after four long years imprisoned in Egypt.
On 18 September 2017, this young Irish citizen was finally acquitted of all charges. The verdict came after more than 30 adjournments and delays. Ibrahim was just seventeen years old when he was first arrested while taking sanctuary in the Al Fath mosque. His sisters Omaima, Somaia and Fatima were also arrested and released on bail. They have also been acquitted of all charges. Ibrahim, the youngest of the family, on the day of his acquittal, he spent 1,472 precious days of his young life languishing in an Egyptian prison.
Amnesty researchers on the ground at the time of his arrest confirm that Ibrahim could not have carried out the violent acts he was accused of. Throughout the trial process, the prosecution didn’t produce a single shred of evidence against him. Our detailed analysis of the case concluded that he was arrested and arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. We declared him a Prisoner of Conscience.
Amnesty International Ireland campaigned relentlessly for Ibrahim’s release. Over the last four years, we held innumerable demonstrations calling for his release.
Today is a day that thousands of Amnesty International activists across Ireland and around the world have been waiting for. Ibrahim is free and safely home with his family in Dublin. It’s thanks to the determined campaigning of his family and friends and of our activists that his horrific ordeal has finally come to an end. Ibrahim should never have had to endure this horrific ordeal.
Over the last four years, thousands of people stood in solidarity to free Ibrahim. Almost 30,000 people took action calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Hundreds of calls were placed to the Egyptian Embassy protesting his detention. We delivered 13,000 campaign postcards to Egyptian President al-Sisi.
Ibrahim’s supporters have campaigned vociferously online. With countless messages, thunderclap campaigns and Facebook live broadcasts, we amplified our message and found new supporters to join our effort.
Writing on Facebook, the Halawa family thanked everyone who campaigned on their brother’s behalf:
“Throughout the journey there had been many amazing individuals who continued to believe in Ibrahim’s innocence, campaigned on his behalf and supported the family and Ibrahim through whichever means possible. They [have] become part of the family. To everyone who has ever helped in any way, you deserve a massive thank you.”
Amnesty groups, activists, schools and colleges stood in solidarity with Ibrahim throughout his imprisonment. They organised talks, vigils, protests and petition signings, and sent Ibrahim thousands of solidarity messages. Throughout the campaign, Amnesty International partnered with trade unions, student organisations, youth organisation and other non-governmental organisations calling for his release. Their actions have shown how ordinary people can make a real difference.
Ibrahim has lost four years of his young life and nothing can ever excuse that injustice. Thankfully, his nightmare is finally over and he can now begin to move on with his life. Throughout the four years of his detention, Ibrahim’s family never gave up. They campaigned relentlessly with determination and energy. We are proud and privileged to have worked alongside them, particularly his sisters who campaigned with enormous courage and whose love and concern for Ibrahim inspired all who worked for his release.