Sunday 21 December 2014

Diplomatic team to attend jailed teenager's Cairo trial

Published 13/07/2014 | 02:30

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa

IRELAND'S ambassador to Egypt and a diplomatic team representing the Government will be present in the Cairo courtroom where an Irish teenager is due to appear in a notorious mass trial this week.

Ibrahim Halawa (18), a Leaving Certificate student from Firhouse, Co Dublin, who has spent 11 months in a Cairo prison without charge, will be brought before a judge in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday, along with over 400 of his fellow prisoners.

In a bold diplomatic move, the Irish ambassador to Egypt, Isolde Moylan, flanked by a number of consular staff from the Irish Embassy in Egypt and members of the EU delegation in Cairo, are set to attend the court hearing.

This unprecedented show of high-level support is believed to be a tactical, yet subtle, flexing of diplomatic muscle intended to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities to release Ibrahim.

Ibrahim, the son of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, Ireland's most senior Muslim cleric and Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Dublin, was arrested in Cairo last August along with his three older sisters, Omaima (21), Fatima (23) and Somaia (28), following a day of protest called by the now banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

Ibrahim's sisters were released in November 2013 and returned to Ireland the following month, but Ibrahim, who was just 17 at the time of his arrest, has had his detention extended on a number of occasions. The Halawa family this weekend welcomed the diplomatic support. However, Ibrahim's sister Somaia believes that the Egyptian authorities will not take the EU and Ireland's concerns for Ibrahim seriously until these authorities make an official request for his release.

She told the Sunday Independent: "The Government's action wasn't serious enough, so they are not going to take the same consideration they might have done if he was a person whose government was asking for his release.

"If the Irish and EU authorities called for his immediate release before Wednesday, I am sure they would consider it. It would put pressure on them at least, and they will know that there are people watching what happens to Ibrahim. The same steps have been taken again and again and they are not helpful anymore. I appreciate the work the Irish Government has done so far, but we need to help my brother and the only thing that will help my brother now is them asking for his immediate release."

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish authorities are "precluded from getting involved in the judicial process" in Egypt, despite the fact that Ibrahim is an Irish citizen.

Last week, the Sunday Independent exclusively revealed the contents of a letter written by Ibrahim to the EU's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, from his prison cell in which he detailed the appalling conditions, bullying and incidences of physical violence he has had to endure since his arrest last summer.

A spokesperson for Ms Ashton confirmed there had been "an exchange of correspondence", but refused to comment on the content of Ibrahim's letter,

The spokesperson added: "High Representative Ashton is very much aware of the case of Ibrahim Halawa. The European External Action Service both in Brussels 
and through the EU delegation in Cairo has been closely following his case since 
his detention in August 2013, in close co-operation with 
the Irish embassy on the ground, which is competent in consular matters. His case has been raised numerous times with the Egyptian 
authorities."

Sunday Independent

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