Taoiseach accused of misleading the Dáil on Halawa charges
Published 15/07/2015 | 02:30
The Taoiseach has been accused of misleading the Dáil when he stated charges against Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa had been downgraded by Egyptian prosecutors.
Enda Kenny said in May that Mr Halawa (19) was facing lesser charges after initially being accused of murder, a crime for which he would face the death penalty, during disturbances in Cairo two years ago.
However, according to a letter submitted to a member of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee by lawyers acting for Mr Halawa, he remains charged with murder.
A Fianna Fáil member of the committee, Senator Mark Daly, said it appeared Mr Kenny had inadvertently misled the Dáil.
A spokesman for Mr Kenny denied this and said the information was given in good faith.
A translated charge sheet, provided to Mr Daly by Belfast-based human rights law firm Kevin R Winters, states Mr Halawa is listed as defendant number 13 on a list of 494.
Of these, 488 people, including Mr Halawa, were together charged with two murders, an attempted murder, the sabotage of a police precinct, the use of explosives, arson and the use of force against police officers.
There are also further charges of the possession of weapons and explosives.
All charges have all been denied by Dublin-born Mr Halawa, who was arrested at a mosque amid protests against the ousting of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi nearly two years ago. Mr Halawa faces a mass trial next month.
Mr Kenny told the Dáil in May it appeared Mr Halawa was facing lesser charges, including presence inside the mosque and refusal to leave it when requested to do so and when offered safe passage by military police. However, Mr Daly said this was not the case and that Mr Halawa's lawyers were not aware of any reduction of the charges.
Mr Daly said: "Unfortunately it appears the Taoiseach inadvertently misled the Dáil and he needs to correct the record. Ibrahim Halawa is still facing murder charges and the possibility of the death penalty. His legal team are adamant the charges have not been reduced."
In a statement, a Government spokesman denied Mr Kenny had misled the Dáil. The spokesman insisted embassy officials in Cairo were informed by Mr Halawa's legal team last April that he was in a group of defendants facing lesser charges.
"This information was confirmed at a further meeting. As the local lawyers in any consular case are generally best placed to clarify issues relating to local law and the charges being faced by a citizen, this information has been relied upon in good faith. This is the information which was relayed to the House," he said.
The statement said the Government was continuing to seek further clarification in respect of the charges and their likely implication, something "the Taoiseach also stated clearly in the Dáil on May 12".
It said the Government was pursuing "a very clear strategy" to secure Mr Halawa's release.
The Government has previously supported applications by Mr Halawa's legal team for his release on bail or through a presidential decree. Both moves were unsuccessful.
Kevin R Winters and barristers from Doughty Street Chambers in London, the law practice of Amal Clooney, have been hired by Mr Halawa's family to fight for his release.
A Doughty Street report urged the Government to take diplomatic action to secure Mr Halawa's release and protect his rights under international law.