Tuesday 10 December 2019

New court date for Irish student locked up in Egypt

In jail cell: Teenager Ibrahim Halawa
In jail cell: Teenager Ibrahim Halawa

Joanna Kiernan

An Irish Leaving Cert student locked up in Egypt for over a year is set to appear before one of the country's notorious mass trials next month - two weeks ahead of his 19th birthday.

After a year in prison and a number of postponements, Ibrahim Halawa was brought to court alongside 483 of his fellow accused on August 12 last. However, the proceedings were abandoned by the judge before Ibrahim was brought into the court room. The case now looks set to go ahead on December 1.

Ibrahim has now spent over 14 months in a Cairo jail cell. The teenager, the son of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh and Ireland's most senior Muslim cleric, travelled to Egypt in June 2013 after his Leaving Cert to stay with family.

Two months later Ibrahim was arrested along with his three sisters - Somaia (29), Fatima (23) and Omaima (21) - during the protests in Cairo, which followed the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi. Ibrahim's sisters were released on bail in November last year and returned to Ireland, but he has repeatedly had his detention period extended.

Ibrahim's family claim the authorities are refusing to hear his case because there is no evidence against him.

"It has been said that no judge wants to take the case because it is a case based on false evidence," Ibrahim's sister Somaia told the Sunday Independent. "Ibrahim is scared and worried about what is going to happen to him. He is losing hope. He is very disappointed. We don't really have many details, but what the lawyer is saying is that with the charges put against him he can be sentenced from 16 months to 15 years - or even sentenced to death."

The Egyptian authorities have levelled 15 charges against the 18-year-old student from Firhouse, Co Dublin. These include being a member of a terrorist organisation, destroying a police station and killing protesters - all of which the Halawa family and a number of Human Rights organisations, including Amnesty International, say are unfounded and false.

Somaia is pleading with the Irish Government to intervene directly to seek Ibrahim's release. "We really appreciate what they are doing, but he has been there nearly a year and a half now. Something else needs to be done now."

Sunday Independent

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