Family of Ibrahim Halawa 'devastated' as trial delayed again

Hopes dashed as trial of Irish man in Egypt postponed until October at the earliest

For over 1,000 days Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa has been held in an Egyptian prison - no evidence has been heard, no trial has taken place.

 

The family of Irish man Ibrahim Halawa has said it is “devastated” after his trial in Egypt was postponed until October at the earliest, dashing hopes that the drawn-out legal process was coming to an end.

The judge at the mass trial of 494 people had previously indicated verdicts and sentences would be handed down yesterday after a process adjourned 13 times over almost three years.

At a short hearing on Wednesday, however, the judge said he wished to consider video evidence. He said a technical committee would be established to examine it and would report back by October 2nd.

A judge who presided over the initial stages of the trial, but retired last year, had previously said he would not accept the video evidence. The reversal of that original decision has prompted alarm among Mr Halawa’s supporters the court could be preparing to begin the trial again.

Separately, the judge ordered the release of two defendants without giving reasons. It was also announced three other defendants had died. It is understood Mr Halawa and the other defendants were present in the court complex, but they were separated from the body of the court by a glass wall.

Mr Halawa (20) has been in prison since August 2013, when he was arrested at the Fateh mosque in Cairo during protests against the ousting of then-president Mohamed Morsi. He and 493 others have been put on mass trial, but the proceedings have to date been adjourned 13 times and no evidence has been heard. About 80 of the defendants have been tried in absentia.

Unconditional release

Mr Halawa, from Firhouse in south Dublin, was 17 when he and three sisters were arrested in Cairo, where they were visiting their extended family. His sisters – Fatima, Omaima and Somaia – were released on bail after three months and returned to Dublin but he has been held in conditions that have been condemned by human rights groups. Amnesty International has declared Mr Halawa a prisoner of conscience and called for his unconditional release.

The Egyptian government has said if convicted Mr Halawa could not face the death penalty, but his lawyers say that on the basis of charges against him the penalty is not excluded.

Speaking after Wednesday’s hearing, Mr Halawa’s sister Somaia said the outcome was “deeply troubling”.

“To say we are devastated by today’s outcome is an understatement. It was confirmed on the previous occasion, and reaffirmed in the interim, that judgment would be passed in Ibrahim’s case today. It now appears that a decision has been taken by the judiciary to reopen the case, and to reassess video evidence that has always been available,” she said.

‘Appalling surprise’

“This decision comes as a surprise to our family, and the Irish Government, in circumstances where we all understood the proceedings would come to a conclusion today. This sparks a further delay, in what appears to be an indication that the trial will now start afresh in October.”

Mr Halawa’s solicitor, Darragh Mackin, said the outcome of yesterday’s hearing was “an appalling surprise” to all involved. “It is no secret that we have serious concerns and reservations about the criminal justice process in Egypt. These concerns have manifested themselves in today’s decision,” he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he was “extremely disappointed” by the latest delay and shared the Halawa family’s frustration. “I will be conveying my concerns about this delay directly to the Egyptian government and, notwithstanding the separation of powers, I will be seeking more information of the review of technical evidence ordered by the court and its likely impact on this trial,” he said.

Ms Halawa said the family and their lawyers would meet representatives of the Government to discuss the development and the way forward.

Amnesty said the latest postponement was a “devastating blow” for Mr Halawa and his family. “The Egyptian legal system has descended into further farce with this 14th delay in Ibrahim’s trial,” said Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty in Ireland.