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Egypt protests teenager faces further three months without trial

Published 04/10/2015

Lawyer Gavin Booth (left), Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan (second left), Ibrahim Halawa's sister Khadija and lawyer Darragh Mackin (right) (KRW Law Belfast/PA)
Lawyer Gavin Booth (left), Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan (second left), Ibrahim Halawa's sister Khadija and lawyer Darragh Mackin (right) (KRW Law Belfast/PA)

An Irish teenager jailed two years ago over political protests in Egypt is facing another three months in prison without trial.

Ibrahim Halawa was 17 when he was detained while taking refuge in a mosque near Cairo's Ramses Square as the Muslim Brotherhood held a "day of rage" over the removal of their elected president Mohamed Morsi.

Now 19, he has been in prison for almost 800 days.

Lawyers for Irish diplomats applied for his release at a mass hearing in Cairo but a judge only offered to rule on that at a later date.

Mr Halawa was told his trial has been adjourned until December 15, with the potential for the death penalty hanging over him if convicted.

Amnesty International said the latest hearing, the ninth in the case, amounted to nothing.

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of the rights group in Ireland, said: "The Egyptian criminal justice system has clearly descended into farce."

Amnesty describe Mr Halawa as a prisoner of conscience, detained after exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly.

Mr O'Gorman called on the government to redouble efforts to secure his immediate and unconditional release.

"He should be at home with his family and friends, where he belongs, not languishing in awful conditions in an Egyptian prison," he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said diplomats would continue to work to resolve the case at the earliest opportunity.

"I have always acknowledged the importance of due process in this case but I have also highlighted the government's concern regarding the length of time Mr Halawa, an Irish citizen, has spent in detention," the minister said.

"The Egyptian government is in no doubt as to the Irish Government's strong interest in Mr Halawa's welfare and our hope that his case can be resolved as soon as possible."

Mr Halawa, from Firhouse in south Dublin, has been detained in Cairo since August 2013. He was initially arrested with three of his sisters.

The Reprieve organisation, which works for people facing death penalty cases, branded the trial process totally unjust.

"Today's postponement will cause yet more anguish for Ibrahim and his family, as well as hundreds of others unjustly arrested with him over two years ago. This mass trial makes a mockery of justice," the spokeswoman said.

"Other countries like Ireland and the UK need urgently to demand the release of Ibrahim."

Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan today expressed her frustration at Mr Halawa's continuing detention in a prison in Egypt.

"Once more, Ibrahim's trial has been postponed; his new trial date is December 15," she said.

"No doubt we will have the government issuing the usual statement with little of comfort to Ibrahim and his family. It is simply not good enough.

"I have said it before, the government must act now. Enda Kenny must lift the phone to his Egyptian counterpart. The time for fudging on this issue is long gone. It is time for some real action and less of the soundbites."

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