Saturday 16 December 2017

'Bureaucracy' to blame for Ibrahim Halawa's delayed prison release, Simon Coveney claims

Ibrahim Halawa has been in a Cairo jail since 2013
Ibrahim Halawa has been in a Cairo jail since 2013

Kathy Armstrong

Bureaucracy is the reason why Ibrahim Halawa is still in an Egyptian prison, more than three weeks after he was acquitted, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said.

Irish citizen Ibrahim (21) was arrested during a protest against the ousting of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo in 2013.

He spent four years in prison and was acquitted of all charges during a mass trial of 490 defendants last month.

Minister Coveney stressed this morning that Ibrahim will be free soon and he expects him to be released from prison in the coming days.

Ibrahim Halawa celebrates moments after his acquittal of various charges at the Wadi el-Natrun prison outside Cairo yesterday. Photo: Declan Walsh/The New York Times/Redux
Ibrahim Halawa celebrates moments after his acquittal of various charges at the Wadi el-Natrun prison outside Cairo yesterday. Photo: Declan Walsh/The New York Times/Redux

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk this morning, he said: “It's important to reassure people, I think this is genuinely bureaucracy, this is a case that had 490 defendants in it.

“What the prosecutor’s office is saying is that they want to release the letters to the prison service in relation to all of those defendants at the same time.

“We had asked them to fast-track and prioritise Ibrahim Halawa’s case - because he is Irish, obviously - and they have said no, they need to deal with them all together.

“That is the main reason this is taking longer than expected but we are literally talking to the authorities in Cairo on a daily basis.

“Ibrahim will be released hopefully within the next couple of days and then we'll see him at home.”

Read More: 'A painful journey that I never thought would end' - Halawa says he is glad ordeal is over

Sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, from left, Fatima, Omaima and Somaia, celebrate the news their brother had been acquitted, at the family home in Firhouse, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, from left, Fatima, Omaima and Somaia, celebrate the news their brother had been acquitted, at the family home in Firhouse, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Minister Coveney also revealed details of the process that will happen once Ibrahim leaves prison.

He said: “He was acquitted three weeks ago now, we are waiting for the prosecutor's office in Cairo to write to the prison service essentially to tell them to release him.

“When that happens he then moves into a holding situation but that's for a very short period of time, then he is moved to the police station that arrested him, where he'll be formally released.

“My understanding is that that takes place after every court case, it's just the Egyptian system.”

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