Wednesday 23 August 2017

Irish teen 'deformed' as bullet wound left untreated in prison

Family makes emotional plea to Gilmore to secure release

JAILED: Ibrahim Halawa (18) was arrested with his three sisters after being caught up in protests in Cairo last August
JAILED: Ibrahim Halawa (18) was arrested with his three sisters after being caught up in protests in Cairo last August
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

An Irish teenager who has spent the last 295 days locked up in one of Egypt's most notorious jails has been left permanently deformed after prison authorities refused to give him medical treatment for a bullet wound.

Ibrahim Halawa (18), who was just 17 at the time of his arrest, was shot in the hand on the same day he and three of his sisters were arrested last August in Cairo during a government crackdown on protests.

Ibrahim's family confirmed for the first time this weekend that he had received a gunshot wound and that his jailers have refused to treat the injury.

"When they arrested us and Ibrahim was going out of the Mosque there was shooting between the police officers and the thugs and a bullet went through Ibrahim's hand and out the other side," Ibrahim's sister Somaia Halawa told the Sunday Independent.

"His hand is not OK, because they did not allow him to get stitches, which he should have got within 24 hours."

According to Somaia, the teenager's hand is now severely deformed with a 'finger bent out of place' and 'a lot of scarring'. However, luckily Ibrahim was put into a cell with a doctor, who was also arrested and has helped him to prevent infection.

"There is a doctor in the cell with him who has helped him but said that he will need to get an operation when he gets out," Somaia said.

"The prison officers wouldn't even allow him things like cotton to clean his wound with, so the doctor in his cell helped him keep it tight and stop the bleeding."

The Halawas have been receiving consular support from the Irish ambassador in Egypt since the ordeal began.

However, Somaia claims that her brother was forced by prison authorities to lie about his health and tell them he was OK.

Somaia also said that a subsequent request from the Irish ambassador for Ibrahim to receive medical attention was ignored by the prison and that her brother is now being targeted by prison staff and bullied. "Ibrahim is being picked on by the prison authorities and his visits have been refused," Somaia said.

"He is constantly threatened that he will receive the death sentence. For an 18-year-old and on any human level this treatment can destroy you physically and mentally."

Ibrahim was arrested last August along with his three older sisters Omaima (21), Fatima (23) and Somaia (28) following a day of protest in Cairo. His sisters were released and returned to Ireland last December, but Ibrahim, who has not been charged with any offence, has had his detention extended a number of times.

Ibrahim is the son of Ireland's most senior Muslim cleric and imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Sheikh Hussein Halawa.

The Halawa family has called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore to take urgent action to secure their youngest son's 'immediate and unconditional' release.

"What is the Government waiting for?" Somaia said. "We have asked Mr Gilmore why he has not personally asked for Ibrahim's release, but to date have received no response.

"We are so scared as we don't know what the outcome will be and we are hearing about all of these people being sentenced to death."

Two mass trials took place in Egypt last month, which resulted in 1,212 men being sentenced to death.

The Halawa family has accused the Egyptian authorities of repeatedly denying Ibrahim access to his lawyer. A hearing is due to be scheduled for Ibrahim within the next few weeks.

Ibrahim was arrested on August 17, 2013. Two Canadian citizens, Dr Tarek Loubani and John Greyson, who were detained in a similar manner in Cairo, the day before Ibrahim and his sisters' arrest, were released after 50 days as a result of public outrage and the backing of a number of big Hollywood names including Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron.

Sunday Independent

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