Ibrahim Halawa trial hears testimony before latest adjournment

Firhouse man has been detained in Egypt since being arrested at protest in August 2013

A file image  of Ibrahim Halawa who has been held in Egypt since August 2013 after being arrested at a protest over the ousting of then president Mohamed Morsi.

A file image of Ibrahim Halawa who has been held in Egypt since August 2013 after being arrested at a protest over the ousting of then president Mohamed Morsi.

 

Ten witnesses gave evidence at the trial of Ibrahim Halawa in Cairo on Tuesday, focusing on clashes between police and protesters in the Egyptian capital after the ousting of then president Mohamed Morsi in August 2013.

At the day-long hearing presided over by three judges, nine police officers gave evidence of clashes at Ramses Square and the Al Fateh grand mosque, where Mr Halawa and three of his sisters were arrested on August 16th 2013.

That day, a demonstration was held at Ramses Square in response to the earlier demolition by security forces of a protest encampment in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, which Human Rights Watch said left at least 817 people dead.

The encampment had been set up by supporters of Mr Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A number of the police officers were asked in court if they could identify any protesters from Ramses Square that day, but it is understood that in nearly all cases the officers said they could not.

One officer identified a defendant whose name appears in a technical review of video evidence previously presented to the court. A civilian whose brother was killed on Ramses Square also gave evidence.

Lawyers for the 494 defendants were allowed to cross-examine the witnesses, and Mr Halawa’s lawyer questioned the police officers on a number of general points. Mr Halawa, who was in court for the hearing, was not mentioned by any of the witnesses, it is understood.

Adjournments

Mr Halawa (21), from Firhouse in south Dublin, has been in jail in Egypt since his arrest more than three-and-a-half years ago, but his mass trial had been adjourned 17 times before this week. More evidence was heard on Tuesday than at any point in the trial so far.

After four hours of witness testimony, the judges again adjourned the trial, saying it would resume on February 14th.

Last week, a delegation of eight TDs visited Mr Halawa in prison, where he protested his innocence and said he wanted to come home to Ireland. Mr Halawa told the politicians he had been beaten, dragged and on occasion put in solitary confinement for complaining about poor conditions. He said that at times he refused food out of a sense of desperation.

At a separate meeting, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi told the TDs he would intervene to ensure Mr Halawa was released and returned to Ireland when his trial concluded, according to a number of those who attended.

The three Halawa sisters were held at a women’s prison for three months before they were released on bail and returned to Ireland in November 2013.

Progress

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan noted that some progress had been made at the latest hearing but said his thoughts were with Mr Halawa and his family after yet another adjournment. He said Ireland had been represented at the hearing by Ambassador Damien Cole and a team from the embassy in Cairo.

“I have spoken to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry about this case many times, most recently on Monday,” Mr Flanagan said in a statement.

“We are all united in our determination to see this young man - who has spent almost three and a half years in prison without having been convicted of any wrongdoing - back home with his family and friends in Ireland at the earliest possible time.”

Amnesty International, which has named Mr Halawa a prisoner of conscience, said Egypt was continuing to ignore its obligations under international human rights law.

“Amnesty International remains gravely concerned for his physical and mental wellbeing. It is long past time that the Egyptian authorities respect international human rights law and allow this young Irish citizen to return home,” said Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland.