Halawa siblings to meet Egyptian prosecutor
The four Irish citizens are said to be in good health
The four siblings who were caught up in the mosque crises in Cairio. From left Ibrihim Halawa with his sisters Fatima, Omaima and Somaia, who were among hundreds of people forced to leave the Al Fateh mosque in Cairo by Egyptian security forces.
Father of the four detained Halawa siblings Sheikh Hussein Halawa, the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, with his daughter Nusayba at the mosque in Clonskeagh. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The four Irish siblings being held in military detention at Cairo’s Tora prison after security forces stormed a mosque on Saturday are due to meet an Egyptian prosecutor later today but it is not known if they will face charges.
Irish diplomats in Cairo are seeking clarification on what charges, if any, might be pressed against Omaima Halawa (21), her sisters Fatima (23) and Soumaya (27) and brother Ibrahim (17).
The meeting was due to take place at the prosecutor’s office at 2pm but it now appears likely it will happen at Tora prison, which is located on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, due to heightened security in the city. A representative from the Irish embassy will be present at the meeting.
It is understood a civilian prosecutor will deal with the case. This is viewed as a positive development given the military-imposed state of emergency in Egypt.
A Turkish diplomat visiting a Turkish national also detained after the mosque siege met the four siblings in Tora prison late yesterday. He said they were in good health and were being kept together.
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs Joe Costello welcomed the fact contact had been made with the Halawas. They had been unable to contact their family since Saturday as their phones had been confiscated after they were detained.
“It’s good news that the Turkish diplomat spoke to them as late as yesterday and it’s a relief to hear that they are in good form and that they have been kept together. That was a big concern, that they may have been separated,” Mr Costello said. “But we’ll find out the attitude of the authorities today and we’ll move from there.”
Like many young Irish of Arab extraction, the Halawa siblings were riveted by the wave of revolutions and uprisings that swept the Middle East and north Africa in early 2011. The events unfolding in the countries where they or their parents were born triggered a political awakening among Irish-Arab youth that took several forms: some helped establish charities and civil society groups; others campaigned online and on the streets; and a small number joined rebel forces fighting in Libya and Syria. Some, such as Omaima and Fatima, both of whom studied digital media in Dublin, were inspired by the citizen journalism of the so-called Arab spring and wanted to help document its transitions.
The four were taken to Tora prison after security forces stormed Cairo’s al-Fath mosque inside which the Halawas and other supporters of Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military last month, had barricaded themselves.
The Halawas had joined protests at nearby Ramses Square on Friday, the day the Muslim Brotherhood had called for demonstrations against the ousting of the Brotherhood’s Morsi and the deadly security operation last Wednesday to evict his supporters from protest camps in the city.