Sunday 21 January 2018

'I share a jail cell with 30 others' - Halawa

In jail in Egypt: Irishman Ibrahim Halawa
In jail in Egypt: Irishman Ibrahim Halawa
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Irish citizen imprisoned in Egypt while awaiting trial for the past three years has written a poignant letter describing his experiences in jail.

Describing himself as "a freedom fighter", Ibrahim Halawa (20) said he was sharing a cell with 30 others and had a tiny sleeping area for himself.

He also said he did not get to see the sky and was striving to cope with "life's toughest conditions" in a cramped prison dormitory.

The letter was released by his family ahead of the resumption of his trial on October 2, over his role in protests in Cairo against the military coup which toppled President Mohammed Morsi.

Proceedings have previously been adjourned on 14 occasions.

Efforts by the Government to secure his release have been rejected by Egyptian authorities.

Mr Halawa, the son of a senior Irish-based Muslim cleric, is one of almost 500 defendants facing a mass trial.

There has been confusion over the charges he is facing, amid fears they include murder and attempted murder, which carry the death penalty.

But a statement read by the speaker of the Egyptian parliament Ali Abdul Aal said he was charged with assaulting police, disrupting roads and endangering the safety of citizens.

Read more: 'I want Ibrahim home' - Charlie Flanagan 'very concerned' at continued detention of Dublin man

He also accused Mr Halawa of being a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

His family, who live in Firhouse, Dublin, has denied this accusation and the charges against him.

In the letter, released by his sister Somaia, Mr Halawa wrote that he should be celebrating his graduation from college, but was instead locked up in prison.

"Today while every graduate throws their graduation hat in the sky to come down with the long waiting dream, I don't see the sky because I'm enrolled in a different college," he wrote.

"A college I did not know I had applied for when I chose to fight for freedom. A college that kidnapped me from life to teach me the principles of real life, a college full of lessons."

Mr Halawa said the first lesson he had learned was that he should have appreciated the "small leisures in life that passed by unnoticed".

"Striving with life's toughest conditions was another lesson. Being forced to share with 30 human beings 24/7 a dormitory where my sleeping area is 35cm," he said.

"In this college I'm obliged to live with a broad diversity of inmates from presidential consultants and college professors to illiterate criminals, which taught me to see the real human being behind every social rank. It is a college where the hardest subject is finding the forgiveness, as I must say as a freedom fighter I never became a revenge hunter."

Mr Halawa's family said he had been suffering from chest pains, but was being denied access to a specialist.

Last month Mr Aal rejected Irish calls for Mr Halawa's release, saying no-one could interfere with the judicial process.

Irish Independent

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