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Ibrahim Halawa: Irish teenager 'shared cell with Peter Greste'

Ibrihim, Fatima, Omaima and Somaia Halawa Image copyright PA
Image caption Ibrahim, Fatima, Omaima and Somaia Halawa were caught up in the siege after seeking sanctuary in the Al-Fath mosque in Cairo in July 2013

An Irish teenager who has spent over a year in jail in Egypt shared a cell with freed Australian journalist Peter Greste, according to his family.

Ibrahim Halawa was detained with three of his sisters when they were caught up in the Al-Fath mosque siege in Cairo in July 2013.

The women were allowed home to Dublin in November 2013, but their 19-year-old brother remains in prison.

He is facing charges, along with many others in Egypt, over the protests.

Mr Halawa is due to appear in court on Sunday.

'Very depressed'

On Thursday, his sister Somaia told BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme she welcomed Mr Greste's release, and said the journalist had helped keep her brother's spirit up in the cells.

"In his letters he sent us, he told us how Peter taught him to cook as before he couldn't do that, but he would say, 'Peter taught me to do this, to do that'," she said.

"It was really great to have Peter inside with him."

Ms Halawa said her brother's prolonged detention had proved a difficult time for the family, and said Ibrahim's mental state was deteriorating by the day.

"He is very depressed, he doesn't want to see anyone, he doesn't know what's going to happen to him tomorrow," she said.

"We're on bail so we cannot visit Egypt, so if he's sentenced to however many years, we will not obviously be able to see him."

If convicted by an Egyptian court, Mr Halawa could face anywhere from six months in jail to the death penalty.

'Soul'

The Halawa siblings are Irish citizens whose family moved to the Republic of Ireland a year before Ibrahim Halawa was born.

Their father, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, is the Republic of Ireland's most senior Muslim cleric.

The family lives in south County Dublin, where Mr Halawa is the imam at Ireland's biggest mosque, in Clonskeagh.

The Irish government has provided diplomatic support to the family since the four were arrested by the Egyptian authorities on 17 August 2013 and campaigned for their release.

Ms Halawa told the BBC her family still feels the government should be doing more to free her brother, in light of Mr Greste's release from prison last weekend.

She said: "We appreciate everything the government has being doing, but we still believe it can do more, use its power to release Ibrahim in the same way Australia has done with Peter.

"I want Ibrahim home, I don't feel I was released from jail because I just feel my soul is still there with my brother."

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