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Egypt detainee 'considered suicide'

Published 26/04/2015

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan is seeking the release of a student held in Egypt
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan is seeking the release of a student held in Egypt

The sister of an Irish student being held in an Egyptian jail has claimed he has contemplated suicide.

Ibrahim Halawa, 19, from Firhouse in south Dublin, has been detained in Cairo since August 2013.

His sister, Nosayba Halawa, who visited her brother last month, called for the government to do more to secure his release.

She said: "He used to tell me that sometimes he feels like he cannot cope and that he thinks of suicide."

Mr Halawa and three of his sisters were arrested after taking part in a protest in the Egyptian capital.

The siblings, whose father Sheikh Hussein Halawa is the imam of Ireland's largest mosque, were forced to seek sanctuary in the Al Fateh mosque amid violent clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and the security forces.

Omaima, 20, Fatima, 22, and Somaia Halawa, 27, who were held separately from their brother in Tora prison, were freed last November and have since returned to Dublin.

Ms Halawa said the family was grateful for the support from the Irish government but appealed for officials to change tack.

"We are grateful for the help we have received," she added.

"But they have been following the same strategy for two years. I think they need to change their strategies.

"They need to do more. They should look to countries whose citizens have been released to see what they are doing."

Mr Halawa is being tried as part of a mass court action against 494 people.

An application for bail was refused and the case was adjourned until June 6 following a hearing earlier today.

Ms Halawa said her brother was being treated like an "animal" in prison and had been denied food, bedding and proper sanitation in a squalid, cramped cell.

"They are killing them slowly by putting them in that situation," she said.

"What century are we living in? There is supposed to be a justice system but where is the justice for my brother?

"He was 17 when he was first taken in and now he has turned 19.

"My father has not heard my brother's voice for two years now."

Their mother remains in Egypt.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was disappointed by the court's decision not to grant bail.

He said: "It is extremely disappointing that the application for bail made by Ibrahim Halawa's lawyers, and supported by the Irish government, has been rejected.

"Our objectives in this case remain clear - to see this young Irish citizen released by the Egyptian authorities, and to provide consular support while he remains in detention."

Mr Flanagan is expected to meet the Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry in New York tomorrow.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International has described Mr Halawa as a prisoner of conscience and has been campaigning for his release.

Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe said Mr Halawa was unlikely to receive a fair trial.

"I again call on An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to contact directly the Egyptian president with a view to securing the release of Ibrahim Halawa and allow his safe return to his family in Dublin."

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