Ibrahim Halawa about to enter fifth year of detention

‘How long is he going to spend there? His friends have graduated and started new jobs’

Ibrahim Halawa with his sisters Fatima, Omaima and Somaia. Photograph: Halawa family

Ibrahim Halawa with his sisters Fatima, Omaima and Somaia. Photograph: Halawa family

 

The family and friends of 21-year-old Ibrahim Halawa will gather with human rights activists outside the Egyptian embassy in Dublin on Thursday to mark the fourth anniversary of his incarceration in Cairo.

Mr Halawa, from Firhouse in Tallaght, was just 17 years old when he was first detained in August 2013 in the aftermath of protests led by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is being tried along with 492 other prisoners .

He was arrested, along with his three sisters Somaia, Fatima and Omaima, in the Al Fath mosque. While the three young women were released on bail, Mr Halawa has been held for almost four years and his trial was adjourned at least 30 times.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has said the mass trial cannot meet the standards required for a fair trial as defined under international human rights law.

The prosecution finally began its case in the mass trial late last month and the defence case opened on August 1st.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney then welcomed the start of the defence phase just two weeks short of the fourth anniversary of Mr Halawa’s arrest. The Halawa family has been critical of the Government’s response to his case.

In a statement, Mr Halawa’s family said four years in jail was “too long for someone who is innocent”.

They said that four years ago they had been arrested while taking refuge in Al Fath mosque in Cairo.

“We had been peacefully demonstrating for democracy and opposing recent violence against protesters. Three months later we were released on bail but Ibrahim remained.”

Mr Halawa’s sister Somaia told The Irish Times things had been “very difficult” for the family.

“It’s four years now and you just feel that he’s still inside and (you wonder) how long is he going to spend there? His friends have graduated and started new jobs,” she said.

Officials from the Irish embassy in Cairo have been in court for the proceedings.

Amnesty International Ireland activists and staff will hold a demonstration outside the Egyptian embassy on Clyde Road in Dublin at 1pm on Thursday.

The organisation said Egypt continued to ignore its obligations under both Egyptian and international human rights law.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said the organisation had conducted a “thorough, independent review of the prosecution evidence” and had concluded that Ibrahim Halawa was arrested “solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of assembly and expression”.

“His ongoing detention is an inexcusable violation of both international and Egyptian law. Given the length of his imprisonment and the horrific circumstances of his detention, Amnesty International continues to be gravely concerned for both his mental and physical wellbeing.”

The organisation called on the Egyptian authorities to drop all charges against him and to order his immediate and unconditional release and urged the Government to continue working on his behalf and to use every means at its disposal to secure his release.