Tuesday 17 October 2017

Government 'is ignoring teenager jailed in Egypt because he is a Muslim'

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

A YOUNG Irishman locked up in an Egyptian jail is being treated as a "second-class citizen" by the Government because he is a Muslim, his family claim.

They also state the authorities do not regard teenager Ibrahim Halawa as "fully Irish" because of his religion.

Ibrahim was detained by Egyptian police 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 three months later, but their 19-year-old brother remains in prison.

Ibrahim, the son of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, the Imam of Ireland's largest mosque, has been subjected to "horrific beatings" and forced to spend time with no clothes.

His family also warn he facing the death penalty as part of a mass trial.

The 19-year-old's court hearing is due to take place on Sunday, after being adjourned on repeated occasions.

But his family insist the Government have not given his case the attention it would normally provide in such circumstances.

"Ibrahim is being treated as a second-class citizen because he's not seen as fully Irish by the government here," said his sister, Somaia.

"We have a huge sense that we're being treated as second-class citizens and it's very upsetting.

"Ibrahim never held an Egyptian passport; he's Irish and has lived here for 20 years.

"They don't realise the dangerous stage we've reached; anything could happen to him at any minute."

She highlighted the case of al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who was freed last February, after spending more than 400 days in an Egyptian jail on terrorism-related charge.

She said the Australian government exerted top level pressure on the Cairo authorities to gain his release .

She said the Australian Prime Minister "personally" made repeated phone calls to the Prime Minister in Egypt.

"However, in the case of my brother, it started with the Department of Foreign Affairs, and everything has been moving very slowly.

Strategy

"The strategy needs to change straight away - and Enda Kenny needs get involved immediately.

"The Government is taking forever to move things along."

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has indicated the Taoiseach may directly intervene if Ibrahim Halawa is not released.

A letter by Mr Flanagan was delivered to an Oireachtas committee which said the government's "approach and tactics" were kept under "constant review".

However, the Taoiseach's department did not respond to queries last night.

Irish Independent

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