Friday 28 October 2016

Egypt rules out special treatment for Irish teenager

Published 11/05/2015 | 02:30

Ibrahim Halawa’s sisters (from left) Fatima, Omaima and Somaia protesting at Leinster House last month
Ibrahim Halawa’s sisters (from left) Fatima, Omaima and Somaia protesting at Leinster House last month

The Egyptian government has ruled out any intervention in the case of Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who has been held for almost two years over his involvement in protests.

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Egypt's newly-installed Ambassador to Ireland, Soha Gendi, told the Irish Independent that politicians were precluded from interfering in what was now a judicial process.

Ms Gendi also said that Mr Halawa's three sisters, who were arrested at the same protest, had "skipped the country" after being released on bail and faced re-arrest if they returned. A court could make findings against them in their absence.

Ibrahim Halawa (19) was arrested along with his sisters Somaia (29), Fatima (25) and Omaima (22) at the al-Fateh mosque in Cairo during protests against the coup d'etat which toppled president Mohammed Morsi in August 2013.

The women were released after three months, but Ibrahim has remained in custody.

In the interview, Ms Gendi linked the Halawa siblings to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Egypt, where it is considered a terror group.

The ambassador described them as "activists" and said: "These were a bunch of people who knew what they were doing."

She also alleged Ibrahim Halawa had been filmed saying: "I am here to help the Egyptians to create an Islamic state."

The Halawa siblings, whose father is Ireland's most senior Islamic cleric, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, have denied membership of the group and say they joined the protests while on holidays in Egypt, where some of the family were born.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has been involved in intense lobbying for the release of the Dublin teenager who, along with almost 430 others, is facing a mass trial.

It is understood the matter also arose in discussions when Ms Gendi presented her credentials to President Michael D Higgins last month.

While some of those being held will face charges for murder and other serious offences, the Irish Independent has learned Halawa will face lesser charges. Sources said the charges he faces are of being present at the mosque, deliberately travelling to the mosque for the protest, barricading the mosque from the inside and not accepting safe passage out of the mosque.

Ms Gendi claimed that the then-Irish ambassador to Egypt, Isolde Moylan, had negotiated safe passage from the mosque for Halawa and his three sisters.

"They should have accepted the safe haven they were offered," said Ms Gendi.

Halawa's sister Somaia (29) confirmed that embassy officials had told them by phone that their safe passage from the mosque had been guaranteed.

However, she said they did not feel they could leave the building safely.

"There were thugs outside shouting that if we went outside they were going to kill us," she said. "There was also a curfew in place. We didn't have the right to leave. We believed that if we left at that time, they had the right to arrest us."

Ms Gendi said Halawa was being treated well in prison and had received regular visits from Irish consular officials.

By the time the next hearing takes place, on June 6, Halawa will have been in custody for 22 months.

Irish Independent

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