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New bid to free Irishman Ibrahim Halawa from custody in Egypt

Published 09/08/2016

Nosayba (left) and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, on Grafton Street in Dublin's city centre
Nosayba (left) and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, on Grafton Street in Dublin's city centre

Lawyers for an Irishman detained for three years without trial in Egypt are to submit a new formal application for his release within days.

Solicitors for Ibrahim Halawa insisted the request for a presidential release decree would proceed despite a recent statement in the Egyptian parliament strongly defending the 20-year-old's detention.

Mr Halawa was 17 when he was arrested along with his three sisters 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.

The family insisted they were taking refugee from the protests.

His sisters were later released but Mr Halawa, from Firhouse in south Dublin, has been in custody ever since facing a mass trial along with almost 500 other alleged dissenters.

Now 20, he is facing the death penalty if found guilty.

The case has been adjourned 14 times. Mr Halawa staged a hunger strike protest last year and is again currently refusing food.

Earlier in the summer both houses of the Irish parliament passed motions denouncing his "unacceptable" detention.

However, at the weekend, Egypt's House of Representatives objected to the calls for Mr Halawa's release.

His solicitor Darragh Mackin said the stance of the parliament had no basis in law and would not impact the application to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whom he said held ultimate authority over the issue.

A previous bid for presidential intervention failed in early 2015.

Reacting to the stance of the Egyptian parliament, Mr Mackin said: "There is no hiding from the fact that such a politically charged statement is concerning, and unconstructive, in working towards Ibrahim's release.

"It is however a political statement, and has no basis in law, nor is it a direct response to the application for Ibrahim's release.

"Ibrahim Halawa is entitled to the presumption of innocence. No evidence has been produced by the state of Egypt to support these allegations, and no finding has been made against Ibrahim by the Egyptian courts."

He added: "There is no prospect that Ibrahim will receive a fair trial. A request for Ibrahim's immediate release under the Egyptian presidential decree law 140 is now imminent. It is expected that this request will be lodged before the end of the week."

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at the a Reprieve organisation, attacked the parliamentarians in Cairo.

"It's astonishing that Egyptian MPs are accusing Irish parliamentarians, who have voiced concerns over Ibrahim Halawa's ordeal, of a 'crime'," she said.

"Egyptian authorities have overseen a system of torture, sweeping death sentences and deeply unfair mass trials. It is only right that the Irish Government should seek to defend their national, Ibrahim, against such grave abuses."

Reprieve said there has been no evidence produced in Mr Halawa's case in the two years he has been detained.

Ms Foa said: "Enough is enough - Ibrahim must be released, and the wave of repression that included his arrest when he was a child, his torture, and his illegal detention under threat of death, must end."

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