Saturday 18 November 2017

Politicians 'ignored' over attempts to attend Halawa trial

Ibrahim Halawa faces trial in Egypt next Sunday
Ibrahim Halawa faces trial in Egypt next Sunday
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Egyptian authorities have been accused of ignoring attempts by an Oireachtas committee to meet Ibrahim Halawa in prison and to observe his trial.

A member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade said it had made a number of requests over the past six weeks seeking to send a representative to visit the Irish teenager, whose trial is due to begin on Sunday.

Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly also alleged a further request he made personally to the Egyptian Embassy in Dublin, to be allowed observe the trial, was ignored.

The situation threatens to spark a diplomatic row ahead of the high-profile case.

Mr Daly said he finally got a response from the embassy yesterday. The correspondence said a formal request would be considered, but cautioned that "the pressure of time and security arrangements" were considerations.

Mr Daly said he believed earlier requests had been "ignored" and that this raised further questions over the trial process.

Queries submitted by the Irish Independent to the Egyptian Embassy about the issue were not responded to yesterday.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns that Mr Halawa will not receive a fair trial.

The 19-year-old has been held since his arrest in August 2013 during protests in Cairo against the toppling of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

The Dubliner was one of 488 people charged with two murders, an attempted murder, the sabotage of a police precinct, the use of explosives, arson and the use of force against police officers.

The charges, which he denies, carry the death penalty.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil last May it appeared Mr Halawa was now facing less serious charges.

However, this has been disputed by the Belfast human rights law firm Kevin R Winters, which is representing Mr Halawa.

The defence team also includes a barrister from Doughty Street Chambers, the London law practice of Amal Clooney.

Lawyers for Mr Halawa met with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday to discuss the case. Solicitor Darragh Mackin said afterwards: "The issue in respect of the charges has still not been cleared up."

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has also requested access to the trial and to Mr Halawa in prison.

She is travelling to Egypt on a diplomatic passport afforded to MEPs having been granted a visa on Monday.

Irish Independent

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