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Johnson urged to raise human rights abuses with Egyptian president

Boris Johnson has been urged to raise "appalling" human rights abuses with Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and work to secure the release of an Irishman languishing in "horrific" prison conditions.

The Foreign Secretary is in Egypt for a meetings with Mr Al-Sisi, foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, as well as human rights and civil society representatives.

Reprieve urged him to raise the case of Irish national Ibrahim Halawa, who was imprisoned in Cairo in 2013, aged just 17, after being detained in a mosque near Ramses Square as the Muslim Brotherhood held a "day of rage" over the removal of their elected president Mohamed Morsi.

His family claim he has been tortured, suffered electric shocks, beatings, being spat on and moved without their knowledge during his time in custody with several hundred others over the protests.

Reprieve highlighted a Foreign Office report from last year which noted that Egypt continues to use the death penalty.

The international human rights organisation also raised concerns about a UK state-owned company, Northern Ireland Cooperation Overseas Ltd, providing Egypt's justice ministry with plans and equipment for the building of courthouses, including a juvenile court in Cairo.

Harriet McCulloch, a deputy director at Reprieve, said: "Boris Johnson is visiting Egypt as thousands of people languish in horrific prison conditions, after they were arrested in connection with protests.

"Hundreds still face the death penalty in desperately unfair mass trials - including people who were arrested as children, like Ibrahim Halawa.

"The Foreign Office says it is concerned about the human rights situation in Egypt - but ministers continue to offer support to President Sisi's government while Ibrahim's ordeal continues.

"The Foreign Secretary must urge Sisi to end these appalling abuses, and free Ibrahim and the many like him."

Ahead of the visit, Mr Johnson said: "I am looking forward to my first visit to Egypt as Foreign Secretary and meeting both President Sisi and foreign minister (Sameh) Shoukry to discuss a wide range of issues and deepen the strength of our bilateral relationship.

"The UK is a long-standing friend of Egypt.

"We are Egypt's top economic partner and strong allies against terrorism and extremist ideas.

"The UK is a champion of a renewed Egypt, because stability, peace and growth in this region are the bedrock of opportunity and security for British people and people in the region."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The Foreign Secretary met with representatives of human rights groups during his visit.

"He also raised human rights, and the importance of a free society as a basis for stability and economic growth, in his discussions with President Sisi and Minister Shoukry."

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