Friday 24 November 2017

Irish secondary school teacher who taught jailed teen Ibrahim Halawa 'increasingly anxious' he will be put to death

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

A young secondary school teacher who taught imprisoned Ibrahim Halawa said he is becoming "increasingly anxious" that the Irish teenager could be put to death in Egypt.

Codie Preston taught science to Ibrahim (19) for four years at the Rockbrook Park Secondary School in south Dublin.

"He is an Irish citizen. He may be put to death," Mr Preston said as he questioned how Ireland is unable to secure a pardon for Halawa as Australia did for one of its citizens recently.

Dublin-born Ibrahim Halawa faces charges of murder and attempted murder in a group trial alongside 493 others. He was arrested at a protest in the Egyptian capital eighteen months ago. His trial has been postponed four times.

In a letter to the Irish Times, Mr Preston said Ibrahim's "large frame and dark facial hair belies the truth that is he a teenager who is quite immature and terrified".

"I, like Ibrahim, speak with a Dublin accent and I, like Ibrahim, have three siblings and parents who I love and who love me," he said.

Sisters Fatima and Nosayba Halawa and Sundas (3), who were holding a candlelight protest outside the Egyptian Embassay in December 2014
Sisters Fatima and Nosayba Halawa and Sundas (3), who were holding a candlelight protest outside the Egyptian Embassay in December 2014

"However, unlike Ibrahim, I am not Muslim and do not have a Muslim name but that is where differences end."

Mr Preston, who taught Ibrahim Halawa in his class before he left in fifth year to study at the Institute of Education, said the Government's response to his situation "has been weak at best" and their efforts in securing his release "has been anything more than token".

"He does not deserve to be there and we as a nation should not accept that one of our citizens is being treated this way," Mr Preston continued.

"We must demand his release and have the convictions to follow through with stern actions, be it diplomatic or economic, if our government is continually ignored."

Mr Preston also said there were a few issues in his case that concerned him.

"He was arrested in Cairo for undertaking his right to protest. He was arrested by an unelected government for protesting against the over-throwing of a democratically-elected government," he said.

"He was 17 at the time of his arrest. He is being tried as part of a mass trial. He is being accused of acts that Amnesty International has said he could not have been involved in.

"He has been made a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He is an Irish citizen. He may be put to death."

He added: “If this young man that I shared a classroom with for four years is put to death or spends his life in prison following an unfair trial on unfair charges, how can I stand in front of my students for years to come and claim to be somebody they should listen to and who does the right thing.

“Australia secured a presidential pardon for one of its journalists who was in the same situation as Ibrahim. Why can’t our government do the same?”

Dublin Central TD Joe Costello recently acknowledged that the Ireland ambassador in Egypt and Minister of Foreign Charlie Flanagan have done “a lot of work” in securing the teenager's release.

“But we need to redouble our efforts. We need to strongly say to Egypt that this is unacceptable. We need to raise the issue again and again."

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