Egyptian authorities have not begun process to release Ibrahim Halawa

It has been two weeks since the Cairo court found the Irish man not guilty of all charges

 Ibrahim Halawa  has been acquitted of all charges in Egypt after four years in jail.

Ibrahim Halawa has been acquitted of all charges in Egypt after four years in jail.

 

The Egyptian legal authorities have not yet begun to process the paperwork for Ibrahim Halawa’s release from jail.

“The first stage hasn’t even been done,” Amnesty International’s Egypt researcher Mohamed Ahmed told The Irish Times, after he received an update from Mr Halawa’s legal team in Egypt.

Mr Halawa’s Egyptian lawyer has told Amnesty that the Cairo criminal court, which acquitted him of all charges three weeks ago, has yet to inform the public prosecutor and attorney general of the acquittal.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, who is in regular contact with Mr Halawa’s Belfast-based lawyer, Darragh Mackin, said: “He doesn’t have any more information and is getting concerned himself,” she said.

It has now been three weeks since an Egyptian court found the Irish man not guilty of all charges following his arrest during a protest in Cairo in 2013 in support of the ousted president Mohammed Morsi.

Earlier this year, an American-Egyptian aid worker Aya Hijazi was released from a Cairo prison just days after being acquitted on charges linked to a shelter for street children she ran in Egypt.

Five days after her verdict she was meeting the US president Donald Trump at the White House, whose administration had engaged with their Egyptian counterparts to secure her freedom.

‘Uncommonly’ long delay

“The odds that the delayed release is due to the paperwork and bureaucracy surrounding the implementation of court orders in Egypt are very low,” said Brad Youngblood, head legal and political researcher at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think tank.

“Given the politicisation of the court case of which Halawa was a defendant and the uncommonly long amount of time that has already passed, it is not unlikely that the elements of the judiciary or the security services have actively worked to delay his release,” he warned.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would not confirm whether Irish Embassy officials in Cairo have been able to see Mr Halawa since he was acquitted, as local reports suggest.

Mr Halawa’s release from prison in the Wadi el-Natrun district outside Cairo remains a priority for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “(He) has written to Egyptian president el-Sisi requesting his assistance to expedite the process. Minister Coveney has also been in direct contact with his counterpart, foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, about the issue,” he said.

Travel arrangements

The Department of Foreign Affairs said both it and the Irish embassy in Cairo remain “focused” on providing every possible support to Mr Halawa so that he can return to Ireland as soon as possible.

“The Taoiseach has written to Egyptian president [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi requesting his assistance to expedite the process. Minister [Simon] Coveney has also been in direct contact with his counterpart, foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, about the issue,” said a department spokesman.

“There remain a number of procedural steps to be gone through before Ibrahim is able to depart Egypt, and the Irish authorities and Ibrahim’s legal representatives remain in ongoing contact with the Egyptian authorities on this process.”

The department noted that Mr Halawa and his family had asked it not to disclose any details relating to his return to Ireland, including travel arrangements, until he is back in the country.