Friday 15 December 2017

Halawas fear Egypt will sentence Irish teen to death

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The family of an Irish teenager being detained in Egypt has rejected diplomatic assurances he is being treated well in prison.

Ibrahim Halawa's family said an Irish official had seen "torture marks" on his back.

They also said they still fear he could be sentenced to death despite indications he will face relatively minor charges over his involvement in the occupation of a mosque in Cairo.

The family expressed their concerns in a statement issued to the Irish Independent.

They were responding to assurances given by Egypt's Ambassador to Ireland, Soha Gendi, that Mr Halawa (19) was being treated well in prison.

The Dublin teenager, the son of Ireland's most senior Islamic cleric, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, was arrested along with three of his sisters amid protests against a military coup in August 2013. The sisters were released on bail after three months in custody and returned to Ireland.

In an interview with the Irish Independent earlier this month, Ms Gendi claimed the siblings were "activists" and linked them to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organisation in Egypt. She also claimed the sisters, Somaia (29), Fatima (25) and Omaima (22), "skipped the country" while still under investigation.

In the statement, the Halawa family rejected many of the assertions made by the ambassador and insisted they were not members of the brotherhood.

The statement said Ibrahim Halawa had been denied medical treatment, resulting in "a permanent deformity".

"Torture marks" had been seen on his back by an Irish diplomat who visited him, it said.

The family also alleged he was only being allowed five- minute visits from his mother Amina, during which they are separated by a wire barrier.

The statement said the Halawa sisters were "beaten (and)sexually harassed to the extent of having our clothes ripped" when they were taken from the mosque by security forces.

It alleged they were denied food and water, and tortured.

The statement also rejected Ms Gendi's assertion that the sisters had "skipped the country". It said they left in a regular manner through an Egyptian airport and had their papers and passports stamped.

The Halawas have denied travelling to Egypt specifically to take part in protests against the military regime. They say they were on holiday in the country when they decided to engage in "peaceful protest".

Ibrahim Halawa is among 429 people undergoing a mass trial over the protests.

While many are facing charges over killings and violence, diplomatic sources have said Mr Halawa is facing lesser charges, including refusing to leave the mosque when requested.

Irish Independent

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