Friday 9 December 2016

'I share a cell with 30 others and my sleeping area is 35cm' - Irishman locked up in Egyptian jail for last three years reveals 'life's toughest conditions'

Shane Phelan Legal Affairs Editor

Published 27/09/2016 | 13:43

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa

The Irish citizen imprisoned in Egypt while awaiting trial for the past three years has written a poignant letter describing his experiences in jail.

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Describing himself as “a freedom fighter”, Ibrahim Halawa (20) said he did not get to see the sky and was striving to cope with “life’s toughest conditions” in a cramped prison dormitory.

The letter was released by his family ahead of the resumption of his trial on October 2 over his role in protects in Cairo against the military coup which toppled President Mohammed Morsi

Proceedings have previously been adjourned on 14 occasions and efforts by the Government to secure his release have met with resistance from Egyptian authorities.

Mr Halawa, the son of a senior Irish-based Muslim cleric, is one of almost 500 defendants facing a mass trial on charges of murder, attempted murder and attending an illegal protest.

His family, based in Firhouse in Dublin, has denied the charges, which can carry the death penalty, and maintain he and three sisters, who were subsequently released, had been caught up in the protests.

In the letter, released by his sister Somaia, Mr Halawa wrote that he should be celebrating his graduation from college, but was instead locked up in prison.

“Today while every graduate throws their graduation hat in the sky to come down with the long waiting dream, I don’t see the sky because I’m enrolled in a different college,” he wrote.

“A college I did not know I had applied for when I chose to fight for freedom.

“A college that kidnapped me from life to teach me the principles of real life, a college full of lessons.”

Mr Halawa said the first lesson he had learned was that he should have appreciated the “small leisures in life that passed by unnoticed”.

“Striving with life’s toughest conditions was another lesson. Being forced to share with 30 human beings 24/7 a dormitory where my sleeping area is 35cm,” he said.

“In this college I’m obliged to live with a broad diversity of inmates from presidential consultants and college professors to illiterate criminals which thought me to see the real human being behind every social rank.

“It is a college where the hardest subject is finding the forgiveness, as I must say as a freedom fighter I never became a revenge hunter.

“Even though after all these years my oppressor is yet not convicted to let me graduate from his prison and go home while for others it’s graduation night out for me its graduation lights out.”

Mr Halawa’s family said today he had been suffering from chest pains, but was being denied access to a specialist.

Last month the speaker of the Egyptian parliament rejected Irish calls for Mr Halawa’s release, saying no-one could interfere with the judicial process.

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