Ibrahim Halawa trial postponed for tenth time

Absence of one of the 420 defendants results in trial being adjourned until 19th December

The trial in Egypt of Irishman Ibrahim Halawa has been postponed for the tenth time.

The proceedings were due to begin on Tuesday but the absence of one defendant out of 420 resulted in the mass trial being adjourned until Saturday, his family said.

Mr Halawa, who turned 20 last Sunday, has been detained in Egypt for more than two years, having been arrested at the al-Fateh mosque in Cairo in August 2013 during protests against the ousting of then-president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Irish Ambassador to Egypt, Damien Cole, attended the brief hearing on behalf of the Government.


Confirming the latest adjournment, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said officials from the embassy in Cairo had attended all hearings to date and had paid 48 consular visits to Mr Halawa.

“This level of attendance and consular visitation underlines the importance the Government attaches to the case. My department will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr Halawa and his family, and will continue to try to secure positive progress for him at the earliest possible date,” Mr Flanagan said.

Mr Halawa’s lawyers have appealed for his release and repatriation under a presidential decree permitting foreign prisoners to serve time in their home countries. However, the Government and Mr Halawa’s lawyers have differing interpretations of the decree, with Dublin arguing that it can only be applied when the trial has formally concluded.

Charges against the 420 accused, reduced from 494, range from murder and attempted murder during a fatal attack on a police station in Ramses Square in central Cairo to taking part in a nearby banned protest against the ousting of Mr Morsi in July 2013. Mr Halawa is charged with the latter offense and with travelling across Cairo to take part in this event.

Mr Halawa, from Firhouse in south Dublin, and three sisters were detained at Fateh mosque in mid-August 2013. His sisters - Fatima, Omaima and Somaia - were released after three months on bail and returned to Dublin but he has been detained in several prisons since his arrest.

Amnesty International has declared Mr Halawa a prisoner of conscience and called for his release. Doughty Street Chambers, a London-based law firm representing him, says his case file contains no evidence to link him to any of the crimes he is alleged to have committed.

In an interview with The Irish Times last August, Egyptian ambassador Soha Gendi said her government could not intervene "until the case was done" as the separation of powers precluded any interference in the judicial system.

Ms Gendi said Egypt regarded it as “a terrorism case” and described Mr Halawa and his three sisters, who were also arrested at the mosque but released on bail after three months in custody, as “activists”.

She said she had done her utmost to facilitate the Irish Government and explore possibilities "to get the kid out of prison". She "prayed" Mr Halawa would not face the most serious charges, "for us to be able to do something at a later stage".

In his statement, Mr Flanagan said that in his "intensive engagement" with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, he had emphasised Ireland's with to see Mr Halawa released and had highlighted the Government's concern about the length of time he had spent in prison.

"The Egyptian Government - including through contacts between the Taoiseach and President al-Sisi - is in no doubt as to the Irish Government's strong interest in Mr Halawa's welfare," Mr Flanagan added.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is the Editor of The Irish Times