Belfast Telegraph

Egyptian president says he will free jailed Irishman Ibrahim Halawa once trial is over

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has told a cross-party delegation of politicians that he will free jailed Irishman Ibrahim Halawa once his trial is over.

Mr Halawa, 21, has been in prison for more than three years after being detained in a mosque near Ramses Square in Cairo as the Muslim Brotherhood held a "day of rage" over the removal of elected president Mohamed Morsi in August 2013.

His trial has been postponed at least 17 times and is due to be mentioned in court again next week.

Eoin O'Broin, Sinn Fein TD on the delegation, said he believed president el-Sisi was surprised that Mr Halawa's incarceration without trial was the sole focus of the 50-minute meeting.

"He stuck to the line that he could not do anything until the court case was finished," Mr O'Broin said.

"But that he will have Ibrahim returned home safely under the powers that he has.

"He said 'I swear to God'. He said it three times. 'If I had the ability to release him I would have done so when the first day that (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny got in contact'."

Mr Halawa is the son of prominent Muslim cleric in Dublin Sheikh Hussein Halawa. He met the TDs in person in Wadi al Natrum prison in Cairo on Tuesday.

He has been on hunger strike for more than a week - at least the third time he has refused food for prolonged periods during his incarceration.

He gave them first hand accounts of the beatings he has been subjected to and the lack of recommended medical care for a heart problem.

The delegation is led by Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail and followed an invite from the speaker of the Egyptian parliament.

It is understood the group told president el-Sisi directly that they believed he had the power to order Mr Halawa's release before the trial concluded by issuing a presidential decree.

Mr el-Sisi gave no indication that he would take that action, Mr O'Broin said.

He added: "President el-Sisi was left in no uncertain terms of the absolute unanimous opinion that all the parties wanted Ibrahim home."

A meeting was also held with the European Union's External Action Service which revealed that it was not monitoring the Halawa case.

Eamon Ryan, Green Party TD, said the meeting with president el-Sisi was respectful, open and honest.

"We made the point that we were looking for a mechanism in Egyptian law or in the constitution, a pardon or amnesty," he said.

"I'm still of the view that there's room within the amnesty mechanism where 82 young people and offenders were released recently."

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