independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Tanaiste raises plight of siblings

Friends of the Halawa family at a demonstration outside the Egyptian Embassy in Dublin.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has said he is increasingly concerned about the plight of four Irish siblings being held without trial in Egypt.

The Foreign Affairs Minister raised the issue with his EU counterparts at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in Luxembourg, where he also met Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi.

Violence in Syria, Libya and Egypt - where three sisters and one brother from the Dublin-based Halawa family are being detained - were on the agenda.

Mr Gilmore said he specifically raised the situation of the members of the Halawa family, who were arrested in August.

"I have been becoming increasingly concerned about their situation and I intend to discuss that with colleagues," he added.

Sisters Omaima, 20, Fatima, 22, and Somaia, 27, and their 17-year-old brother Ibrihim had travelled to Egypt earlier in the summer for a holiday.

Mr Gilmore said no specific charges have been brought before them and that their detention has been extended on a number of occasions, the last time for a period of 45 days.

The four were forced to seek sanctuary in the Al Fateh mosque in mid August after violent clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and the security forces.

They were subsequently jailed in Tora prison and last appeared before the prosecutor's office at the end of September.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been providing consular assistance to the siblings, from Firhouse, south Dublin.

The FAC, which is a meeting of all 28 Foreign Ministers in the European Union, also discussed Myanmar/Burma, following the decision to lift all EU sanctions.

During the event Mr Gilmore had lunch with Ms Suu Kyi, who received the Freedom of Dublin city last year.

"We discussed on that occasion the possibility of an Irish Aid programme in Burma," he said.

"We have worked on that issue since then, our officials have been involved in scoping out an aid programme, and I expect to be in a position shortly to announce details of an Irish Aid programme in Myanmar/Burma which will help in the transition to democracy."

Press Association

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