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Trial of jailed Irishman in Egypt is gathering momentum, says minister

The Government has said there is momentum in the trial of 21-year-old Ibrahim Halawa who has been in jail in Egypt for almost four years.

The prosecution case in Cairo was adjourned until next month after seven witnesses were called and cross-examined, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said.

Mr Halawa was incarcerated after being detained during Muslim Brotherhood protests in Cairo in 2013.

A mass trial involving him and hundreds of other alleged conspirators has been adjourned more than 20 times while Mr Flanagan's office pursues diplomatic channels for his return to Dublin.

"The relatively short adjournment period and the progress in recent hearings in terms of witness testimony are indications of momentum in the trial process, which is to be welcomed after a very difficult and frustrating period of over three years," Mr Flanagan said.

"My expectation now is that the trial will move towards a conclusion. It is important that there should be no further delays in the process."

Mr Flanagan said Mr Halawa's case and his health and welfare remain matters of "the utmost concern".

Mr Halawa, the son of a prominent Muslim cleric in Dublin, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, was imprisoned after being detained in a mosque near Ramses Square in Cairo as the Muslim Brotherhood protested over the removal of elected president Mohamed Morsi in August 2013.

He has been tortured and gone on hunger strikes during his imprisonment.

Earlier this week he wrote a letter with an impassioned plea to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to demand his release after he watched another inmate being freed, Egyptian-US citizen and co-founder of the Belady Foundation for Street Children, Aya Higazy.

The Taoiseach wrote a letter to Mr el-Sisi a month ago pleading for Mr Halawa's release on humanitarian grounds.

Amnesty International Ireland said it was not clear if the court considered a request made at the last hearing for Mr Halawa's release on humanitarian grounds.

Executive director Colm O'Gorman said they were gravely concerned for his physical and mental health.

"We reiterate our call on the Egyptian authorities to drop all charges against him and for his immediate and unconditional release. We also urge the Irish Government to continue working on his behalf and to use every means at their disposal to secure his release," he said.

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