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Taoiseach needs to intervene to ensure Halawa's release

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Ibrahim Halawa has been languishing in an Egyptian jail for over 600 days, despite the fact that Amnesty International has consistently said Dublin-born Ibrahim Halawa is innocent

Ibrahim Halawa has been languishing in an Egyptian jail for over 600 days, despite the fact that Amnesty International has consistently said Dublin-born Ibrahim Halawa is innocent

Ibrahim Halawa has been languishing in an Egyptian jail for over 600 days, despite the fact that Amnesty International has consistently said Dublin-born Ibrahim Halawa is innocent

An Irish-born citizen has been languishing in an Egyptian jail for over 600 days, despite the fact Amnesty International has consistently said Dublin-born Ibrahim Halawa is innocent.

If we were to close our eyes and imagine that it was Sean O'Sullivan, son of a Fine Gael supporter from Mayo who was in jail for nearly two years, we would imagine that intervention would have already taken place at the highest level.

However, he is not Sean from Mayo, he is Ibrahim Halawa, son of a Muslim Imam from Egypt. The evidence of past actions - and more accurately, the inaction of Irish governments - is that they have a pitiful track record of standing up for our citizens abroad who face serious charges or who have been convicted despite being innocent.

The Birmingham Six, Maguire Seven and Guildford Four are just some of those who were innocent but convicted and languished in prison for years.

Their freedom was secured by brave campaigners who not only received no assistance but were maligned for many years by the government and the establishment. It was only through the determined work of their families, supporters and their legal teams - who can forget the irrepressible Gareth Peirce - and belated intervention by the government, that freedom was secured.

Our Government should be following the example of the Australian and Canadian governments, where there was direct contact with the Egyptians at the highest level, which resulted in the release of Australian citizen, Peter Greste, and Canadian Mohamed Fahmy.

The Egyptian government even changed the law in 2014 for it to allow for the release of foreign nationals by presidential decree. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had "personally" raised Mr Fahmy's case with President el-Sisi, and Canadian officials called 19 times in a two-week period.

Our Government should be seeking Ibrahim's release; instead the Department of Foreign Affairs is not seeking his release, but his welfare while in custody remains the "primary concern".

How is the Department of Foreign Affairs doing, in even ensuring Ibrahim's welfare while in jail? When first detained, Ibrahim was brutally beaten and shot in the hand. He was subsequently denied medical treatment, which has resulted in a permanent deformity. Ibrahim says he has been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment including electrocution, being stripped half-naked, beaten with whips and chains and held in solitary confinement.

He is up in court again on Sunday. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.

Under a little-used provision in the Foreign Affairs Committee I have put down a motion for a vote yesterday: "That this committee asks the Taoiseach to follow the example of the Australian and Canadian prime ministers and makes direct contact with the Egyptian president in relation to the Ibrahim Halawa case." I hope my colleagues can support Ibrahim and his family.

It should not take a motion from the Foreign Affairs Committee to get the Taoiseach to help this young Irish person; it should not be that a motion asking the Taoiseach to make a call is necessary.

However, all the efforts to date by the Irish authorities have failed, yet we see the Australians and Canadians succeed. The Taoiseach needs to get involved and if needs be, start putting in train the process of asking for EU trade sanctions against Egypt.

Any Irish citizen, whatever his religion or the colour of his skin reading this, would hope that if in the same situation as Ibrahim, their Taoiseach would do no less.

Mark Daly is a Fianna Fáil senator

Irish Independent