Belfast Telegraph

Egyptian president vows to release jailed Irishman upon verdict delivery

The Egyptian president has given his word that he will release a jailed Irishman once a verdict is delivered in a long-running trial.

Ibrahim Halawa, 21, had been expecting a judgement in the mass trial over Muslim Brotherhood protests which took place in Cairo in August 2013 following the removal of elected president Mohamed Morsi.

The ruling was postponed with a new hearing date set for September 18.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held a 25-minute phone call with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Monday evening where he e xpressed his disappointment at the latest delay.

A spokesman said: "He made clear to President el-Sisi that his priority was to secure the return of Ibrahim Halawa to Ireland as soon as possible."

The Egyptian leader reiterated his stance that he cannot interfere in a judicial process.

The Irish Government said Mr el-Sisi "gave the Taoiseach his word" he would resolve the matter swiftly within the Egyptian constitutional and legal framework after a verdict is delivered.

The spokesman said the two leaders looked forward to Mr Halawa's repatriation and to concentrate on broader and normal bilateral relations on trade, tourism and political cooperation.

Ibrahim Halawa, a student and son of a prominent Muslim cleric in Dublin - Sheikh Hussein Halawa - was jailed after being detained in a mosque near Ramses Square in Cairo four years ago. He was 17 at the time.

Along with scores of others he is accused of murders, bombing, possession of firearms and explosives, arson, violence against police and desecration of Al Fatah Mosque.

Mr Halawa's solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Belfast-based human rights legal firm KRW Law, said no specific evidence was introduced in the long-running trial relating to the Irishman.

When the delay in the verdict was confirmed Mr Halawa's family accused the county's judiciary of playing with life.

"It is truly upsetting and heart-breaking to constantly keep having our expectations and hopes shattered into a million pieces," his sister Somaia said.

"It is not just Ibrahim's life that is being played around with but also the entire family's life. We would ask that our family are allowed some time to ourselves during this difficult period."

Mr Mackin added: "Regrettably, this is not the first time the case has been due to conclude when a last minute - unexpected and unjustified decision is taken to delay the case further.

"We are now four years on, with each day and each false dawn having a hugely significant mental and physical impact on our client's health.

"It is not known when this case will ever end. Such irrational and unpredictable decisions cannot be allowed to continue, and in particular when they operate in a vacuum of lawfulness depriving our client of his basic rights."

It is understood no formal explanation was given for the delay but there are unconfirmed reports of references to security concerns and a threatened prison escape by inmates involved in another case.

Mr Halawa is facing the threat of a death sentence if found guilty.

Hearings in the mass trial involving Mr Halawa and 493 others have been adjourned and delayed numerous times over the past four years. The prosecution case ended last month.

Maya Foa, director of the Reprieve charity which works to prevent human rights abuses, said: "Ibrahim was arrested as a child for the 'crime' of attending a protest and brutally tortured.

"This mockery of justice demonstrates that there is no longer any semblance of due process in Egypt."

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