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Saturday 26 July 2014

Teen in Egyptian prison ‘not Irish-looking enough’ to be freed

JOANNA KIERNAN

Published 29/06/2014|00:00

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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

The family of an Irish teenager locked up in Cairo for the last 317 days, believe he is not “Irish looking enough” for the outside world to take notice of his plight.

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Ibrahim Halawa’s family in Ireland have made a number of desperate pleas to the Irish Government and EU to help the teenager, who has not been charged with any crime.

“He is Irish, he was born here, but he does not look Irish, he does not look like he is from the EU and I think this is why it’s been so slow,” said Ibrahim’s sister Somaia Halawa.

The Halawas have been receiving regular consular support from the Irish ambassador in Egypt since the ordeal began. However, his family, who have begun an online campaign for his release, say they have received negative feedback from both media and public commentators, distancing Ibrahim from his Irish roots and blaming the 18 year old for his current situation. 

“Ibrahim was actually born in Ireland. It should not matter if our parents are not from Ireland. Ireland has a responsibility towards him. I love and respect this country, but they have never asked me whether I am originally Irish when I am giving them my taxes,” Somaia added.

“We appreciate the help we have got from the Irish Government, but it’s time for action. They have been raising the case long enough and nothing has happened, the fear is killing us.”

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

The 18 year old was arrested last August along with his three older sisters, Omaima (21), Fatima (23) and Somaia (28) following a day of protest in Cairo. The Halawa sisters were released in November and returned to Ireland last December, but Ibrahim has had his detention extended a number of times.

Somaia also claims that her brother has been consistently bullied by his jailers and taunted with threats that he will face the death penalty when he goes before the court.

After over almost 11 months of being detained without charge, a hearing has now been scheduled for Ibrahim on July 16. However, his family fear that there will be less room for negotiation in Ibrahim’s case if he is charged and sentenced for a crime.

Last week. three Al 
Jazeera journalists were each jailed for seven years by an Egyptian judge for aiding a “terrorist organisation” by broadcasting lies that allegedly harmed Egypt’s national security.

The court ruling came just a day after the US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Egypt’s newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and specifically raised the issue of the journalists’ plight.

There was international outcry following the country’s latest mass trial on June 21 in which death sentences were handed down to 181 people, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Muhammad Badie.

This ruling followed a similar trial in April where 683 people were sentenced to to death during a five-minute hearing.

And in March 529 people were sentenced to death, but later had these terms commuted to life in prison for all but 37.

Sunday Independent

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