Thursday 22 February 2018

The release of Australian journalist gives me great hope for my brother - Halawa sister

New hope: Ibrahim Halawa's family believe he may be freed
New hope: Ibrahim Halawa's family believe he may be freed

Geraldine Gittens and Sarah Stack

An Irish teenager being detained in Egypt is not among the 183 sentenced to death by a court.

The family of 19-year-old Ibrahim Halawa said they have hope that their brother will be released soon since the Australian journalist, Peter Greste, was freed.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is aware of the developments in the case of the Al-Jazeera journalist.

“The Department continues to provide all possible consular assistance to Ibrahim Halawa,” a spokeswoman added.

The teenager has been locked up in an overcrowded jail cell since his arrest in Ciaro in August 2013, following a day of widespread protests.

He claims he has been subjected to brutal beatings at the hands of his jailers and his family, who live in Firhouse, west Dublin, have campaigned tirelessly for his release.

His father, Imam Hussein Halawa, has said his son remains in custody and he has not had any update from Ciaro today.

Read More: Irish student spends second Christmas locked up in Egypt

Along with 493 defendants he is also facing charges in relation to an illegal protest - all defendants face the possibility of the death sentence or an extensive period in jail.

Earlier, an Egyptian court sentenced 183 people to death over the killing of 15 policemen in violence that engulfed the country after the 2013 ousting of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The verdict came at the end of one of several mass trials in Egypt that have sparked an international outcry over the sentencing of hundreds of defendants on similar charges.

Many of the death sentences were later overturned on appeal, and in one incident, a judge was removed.

The court ruling came a day after Greste, a former BBC journalist, was whisked away on a flight to Cyprus, in a welcome surprise to colleagues and activists who spent months pressing for his freedom.

Ibrahim’s sister Nosayba told Newstalk’s Breakfast today: “We all have hope that my brother will be released soon.”

“Yesterday I told one of my friends, we have to prepare the house, maybe he will get out tomorrow.”

That’s what keeps us going. Maybe he’ll be released tomorrow, maybe the day after.”

Mr Greste was a cellmate of Ibrahim, and the journalist has been calling for the release of his two journalist colleagues.

It is expected that one of these, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, will be released in the next few days.

“That gives me a great big hope,” Nosayba said.

 “He started to have depression, he was feeling everthing was moving around him but he’s only in the one place.”

“[He thinks] the world is moving around me and I’m still there.”

“I visit him every week and I’m going to visit him today in two hours. A year and a half for innocent people in prison is not a little thing. Especially because of his age – he’s young.”

Dublin-born Mr Halawa, who has Egyptian parents, faces charges of murder and attempted murder.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said since August 2013, when Mr Halawa’s detention began, there has been ongoing and regular contact at official and ministerial level with Ibrahim and with his family in Ireland. 

"From the outset, the Embassy of Ireland in Cairo has had ongoing contact with the Egyptian authorities in relation to the case," he said.

"Contacts have included numerous meetings between our Ambassador and senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Justice, and the office of the Prosecutor General. Embassy officials have also visited Mr. Halawa in detention on over thirty occasions."

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has also met Mr. Halawa’s family and given them assurances regarding the continued assistance of his Department.

"Minister Flanagan has raised this case through direct contacts with the Egyptian government and through the European Union, including the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy," it added.

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