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Family of Ibrahim Halawa 'devastated' after Egypt trial delayed for months

Published 29/06/2016

Ibrahim Halawa has been held for three years without trial in Egypt
Ibrahim Halawa has been held for three years without trial in Egypt

The family of a 20-year-old Irish man jailed in Egypt over political protests are to reapply for a presidential decree to secure his freedom after his trial was delayed for another three months.

Ibrahim Halawa was imprisoned aged 17 in Cairo in 2013 during unrest over the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood and has been held without trial for three years as hearings were adjourned more than a dozen times.

He had been expected to learn his fate today but the court put the case back until October 2 to examine video evidence.

Mr Halawa's sister Somaia said the latest delay was deeply troubling.

"To say we are devastated by today's outcome is an understatement," she said.

"There comes a time, when enough must be enough. Ibrahim continues to be detained indefinitely. In light of today's development, we feel we have no alternative but to reapply for Ibrahim's release under the presidential decree."

The Halawas insist Ibrahim has been jailed without a fair trial and no adequate access to a lawyer, and claim he has been tortured, received electric shocks, beaten, spat on and moved without his family's knowledge.

He is also facing a possible death penalty.

Mr Halawa was arrested in August 2013 in the Al Fath mosque near Cairo's Ramses Square where his family said he was taking refuge as a "day of rage" was held over the removal of president Mohamed Morsi.

His sisters were released on bail.

Ms Halawa said Egyptian law is expressly clear and allows the Government to deport a citizen to his home country.

She said the family were seeking an urgent meeting with the Irish Government to discuss the next steps.

The family also accused the Egyptian courts of reopening the case and reassessing video evidence that has always been available.

Darragh Mackin, of the Belfast-based KRW LAW, which represents Mr Halawa and his family, said the latest adjournment was an appalling surprise.

"For the trial to be reopened, and adjourned to October, is entirely insupportable," he said.

"It is no secret that we have serious concerns and reservations about the criminal justice process in Egypt. These concerns have manifested themselves in today's decision.

"Power does not appear to listen to reason."

Amnesty International Ireland, which describes Mr Halawa as a prisoner of conscience, said the court in Cairo was told that video evidence is being referred to a technical committee who will report back in three months.

"This is a devastating blow for Ibrahim and his family who have spent almost three years campaigning for justice," executive director Colm O'Gorman said.

"This young Irish citizen has now spent more than 1,000 days living in truly horrific conditions in an Egyptian prison cell, without access to proper medical care."

Amnesty called on the Egyptian Government to intervene to secure Mr Halawa's release through the use of pardons and presidential decrees.

"Our expectation is that the Irish Government will continue to use every diplomatic and political mechanism to secure Ibrahim's immediate and unconditional release," Mr O'Gorman said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the latest adjournment is a particular source of concern and frustration.

"I will continue to use every possible opportunity to underline our concerns about this case to Egypt, both directly and bilaterally, and also with EU and other international partners and friends," he said.

Mr Flanagan, who met Mr Halawa's father Hussein on Tuesday, said he would make his concerns known directly to the Egyptian government.

He also said he was seeking more information on the review of evidence ordered by the court.

"This case remains a key priority for me," Mr Flanagan said.

The Irish ambassador to Egypt, Damien Cole, was in court for the hearing and Irish diplomats last visited Mr Halawa in prison at the end of May.

Mr Halawa's hearing took place in the court in Wadi Natrun prison, where he has been held since being transferred earlier this year without his family or Irish diplomats being told.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at the Reprieve organisation, said: "For the last three years, the Egyptian authorities have made a mockery of justice by dragging out this mass trial.

"Ibrahim and hundreds of other alleged protestors have been detained at length, horribly mistreated, and threatened with execution.

"Today's delay - and the suggestion that this Kafkaesque ordeal will start again months from now - is utterly unacceptable. Enough is enough - the Irish Government must take urgent steps to secure Ibrahim's release, and his return to his family in Ireland."

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