Birthday vigil held for Ibrahim as he turns 20 in feared Egyptian jail

Supporters of Ibrahim Halawa mark his 20th birthday outside the Egyptian embassy. At front are his sisters Somaia, Fatima and Omaima

Laura Larkin

Family and supporters of Ibrahim Halawa gathered outside the Egyptian embassy in Dublin yesterday to mark his 20th birthday, which he spent in a Cairo prison.

Ibrahim was imprisoned in August 2013, when he was 17, during a day of protests in Ramses Square in the Egyptian capital following the ousting of president Mohamed Morsi.

He is to be tried with more than 490 other defendants, but proceedings have been postponed or adjourned nine times. The trial is due to resume tomorrow.


A total of 130 ribbons marking the number of weeks he has spent behind bars were pinned to a swathe of lace draped over the embassy's railings.

There was also a birthday cake with 20 candles at the sombre event, where supporters held cards that spelled out "Happy Birthday Ibrahim".

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan joined the supporters at the vigil.

"I don't have much confidence in the trial date, I think it will be postponed again," she told the Herald.

On Thursday, the European Parliament will debate a motion on whether a resolution should be passed calling for Ibrahim's release.

Ms Boylan said that, if agreed, it will send a significant message to the authorities in Egypt.

"I'm fairly confident that it will pass by a good majority, because it has the support of all Irish MEPs from the different groups, so I'm sure they've been lobbying," she said.

"It's quite unusual to get a resolution on an individual, so it's significant to even get it on the agenda. If it passes it will set the marker for the Egyptian authorities that this is the position of 28 member states."

Ms Boylan, who has visited the Firhouse resident in jail, said his incarceration continues to take its toll on his family.

Since his detention, Ibrahim has alleged in letters from the feared jail that he has been tortured.

He has also gone on hunger strike on various occasions to protest against his imprisonment.

Three law firms, including Doughty Street Chambers where George Clooney's barrister wife Amal works, have been engaged to represent Ibrahim.

Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience and has been lobbying for his release.

UK-based human rights group Reprieve has also taken up Ibrahim's case and has appealed to the British government to call or his release.

On Friday night, the organisation delivered a birthday card with 800 signatures to the Egyptian embassy in London.