Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Irish citizens charged with murder in Egypt, claims sister

Ibrihim Halawa with sisters Fatima,  Omaima and Somaia
Ibrihim Halawa with sisters Fatima, Omaima and Somaia

The sister of four young Irish citizens detained in Egypt says they have been hit with "ridiculous" charges of arson and murder.

Four Halawa siblings, Omaima (20), Fatima (22), Somaia (27) and Ibrahim (17) had travelled from Dublin to Egypt for their summer holidays. They were arrested after joining Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations against the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi.

Their sister Nosayba said a Cairo-based lawyer told her last night that the four faced charges of murder, arson, belonging to an armed gang and possession of arms and explosives.

The lawyer told her they were part of a group of 300 people arrested inside a mosque who were all facing the same charges.

"These charges are ridiculous and stupid. To accuse them of being capable of doing all these things would mean they would have to be like Superman," said Nosayba. "And these charges are also against my brother, who is only 17."

"Our father had wished my sisters to become doctors but they wouldn't because they couldn't stand the sight of blood.

"We are very upset. When I got the news from the solicitor I thought, 'Oh my God, what is happening?'."

Their father, Hussein, is the imam of Ireland's biggest mosque in Clonskeagh, Dublin.

Nosayba and her father had initially been relieved by the news that an Irish diplomat had succeeded in meeting all four siblings. He had reported that they were fine.

But when Nosayba phoned a lawyer in Cairo, she was told of the charges being levelled against the hundreds of protesters, including her siblings.

"We are still in the dark about what will happen. I am telling my father he must remain strong for them," she said.

The family were told the four were taken before a court, along with hundreds of other women and men, where they faced a "bunch of charges".

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said there was no official confirmation that the four young people were facing any criminal charges.

News reports mentioned charges, but diplomats were not aware of anything official.

There have been three days of national mourning in Egypt following the murder of policemen, so there may be further delays in getting clarity about the legal situation, said the spokesman.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Joe Costello, said the Government's primary concern had always been for the welfare of the four siblings.

"I'm glad that we've managed to establish access to them," he said. "While this information will come as a relief to their family, obviously they are still in detention and unfortunately the situation in relation to legal proceedings against them is unclear at present."

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