Monday 24 July 2017

'Years of torture and pain is all I have seen' - Jailed Irishman's letter to new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Ibrahim's letter pleads with Leo Varadkar

Above is Irishman Ibrahim Halawa, who has been in an Egyptian jail for four years without trial
Above is Irishman Ibrahim Halawa, who has been in an Egyptian jail for four years without trial

Ian Begley

Jailed Irishman Ibrahim Halawa has written a heartfelt letter to Leo Varadkar, expressing how his appointment as Taoiseach has given him a new-found hope of returning to Ireland.

The 21-year-old has been detained in Cairo, Egypt, without trial for almost four years.

Last month his trial was adjourned for the 24th time, this time until July 4.

Recently, the Government said it had stepped up its diplomatic efforts to secure the 21-year-old's release, with Mr Varadkar saying he is willing to consider a "different approach".

Mr Halawa has now written a letter to Mr Varadkar from his Egyptian jail cell, revealing that he has put his hunger strike "on hold".

In the letter, which was released by his sister Somaia, Mr Halawa says that for the past four years he has been "wrestling with hope against fate".

"Sometimes I was disappointed and sometimes I was optimistic.

"As time is my worst enemy in prison I have entered a dark tunnel, but hope tends to plant a light pole every now and then.

"Four years of torture, suffering and pain is all I have seen at a very young age."

Last month then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had spoken twice to the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and wrote him a "very strong letter" pressuring Mr Halawa's release.

However, Mr Halawa says the lack of headway Mr Kenny made left him feeling extremely frustrated.

"I have gotten so frustrated complaining about the former Taoiseach needing to do more, until I lost hope," Mr Halawa wrote in his letter.

Mr Halawa has gone on hunger strike three times since his imprisonment.

In his letter he discusses the negative impact the hunger strikes have had on his health. He says these strikes have done little to improve the conditions in which he lives or speed up proceedings.

Despite the conditions he has endured, Mr Halawa says he now sees a flicker of hope.

"In my dark tunnel I have finally seen the light at the end; it is you, An Taoiseach, waiting on the other side of the tunnel.

"You have not only given me hope to be released soon, but you have given me hope as I know you would understand how much I love my home despite being from a foreign background."

Mr Halawa added that he has now decided to put his hunger strike on hold.

"You have given me hope that maybe one day I can lead my country and become Taoiseach to repay all my people for standing by me at this hard time.

"Therefore I decided to hold my hunger strike as you have not only revived hope for me but also the feeling of safety," he continued.

"A feeling that needed to be restored to every Irish citizen."

Mr Halawa says that his extended family feel equally hopeful about the future since Mr Varadkar won the Fine Gael leadership battle.

"It is not only me who has hope in you, but also my family, the Irish people my friends.

"As one quoted in a letter to me: 'Hopefully Leo's heart bleeds for you more than Enda's did, and that will be his fuel to get you home'.

"I hope to see you soon. Irish Citizen, Ibrahim Halawa."

Mr Halawa was just 17 when he was first arrested in August 2013 while taking sanctuary in the Al Fath mosque in Cairo.

Mr Halawa's sisters were released on bail and are safe in Ireland.

Speaking last night, Somaia said while it was difficult to remain optimistic, she believed "everything my brother is saying in his letter".

"I think the new Taoiseach is a lot more committed to securing Ibrahim release than the former Taoiseach," she said.

Irish Independent

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