Sunday 25 February 2018

Michael D Higgins: Ibrahim Halawa case needs 'urgent resolution'

Ibrahim Halawa was jailed after Muslim Brotherhood protests in Cairo in 2013 and his case has been adjourned more than 20 times
Ibrahim Halawa was jailed after Muslim Brotherhood protests in Cairo in 2013 and his case has been adjourned more than 20 times

President Michael D Higgins has said the four-year trial in Egypt of 21-year-old Ibrahim Halawa needs an urgent resolution.

Mr Halawa was incarcerated after being detained during Muslim Brotherhood protests in Cairo in 2013 and hearings in the case have been adjourned more than 20 times.

The President raised the controversial imprisonment during a meeting with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Christian Church, Pope Tawadros II, at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin.

A spokesman for the Mr Higgins said: " The leaders emphasised the crucial value of human rights, including the freedom of religion and the rights of prisoners.

"President Higgins made particular reference to the pressing case of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, which he described as needing an urgent resolution."

Mr Halawa, the son of a prominent Muslim cleric in Dublin, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, was imprisoned after being detained in a mosque near Ramses Square in Cairo as the Muslim Brotherhood protested over the removal of elected president Mohamed Morsi in August 2013.

He has been tortured and gone on hunger strikes during his imprisonment.

Pope Tawadros II also held talks with Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who also discussed Mr Halawa's incarceration.

Egypt's ambassador to Ireland, Soha Gendi, attended the meeting with President Higgins along with a number of other Coptic Christian bishops.

The President's spokesman also said Mr Higgins conveyed his condolences on the loss of life following recent attacks on two Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday.

"Both leaders also highlighted the importance of inclusive political dialogue in seeking to bring an end to the conflicts which now prevail and are threatening humanity in so many parts of the world, and the urgency of achieving new means of ensuring stability, democracy and sustainable development," Mr Higgins' spokesman added.

Earlier this week, the latest court hearing in the case was adjourned after a number of witnesses failed to show up. It is due to be mentioned again in July.

Mr Halawa's family said he has asked for a transfer to the Tora prison after being assaulted by a guard.

They also said a lawyer has warned them that the case may run for up to another two years.

Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny has written a letter to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pleading for Mr Halawa's release on humanitarian grounds.

Mr el-Sisi said he could be released, but only once the trial has run its course.

Press Association

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