The family of Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who was jailed two years ago over political protests in Egypt, attended a briefing about his case at the European Parliament on Tuesday.
Mr Halawa was 17 when he was detained while taking refuge in a mosque near Cairo's Ramses Square as the Muslim Brotherhood held a "day of rage" over the removal of their elected president Mohamed Morsi.
The briefing, organised by Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, heard from Dr Christopher Ward, the barrister who represented al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste who received a presidential pardon from Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi for violating Egypt's ban on unlicensed protests.
Mr Greste, an Australian-Latvian dual citizen, was released and deported in September under a presidential decree allowing foreign prisoners to serve time in their home countries. He Skyped into the hearing in Brussels on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Ms Boylan said there was a “narrow window of opportunity” to apply for the presidental decree for Mr Halawa before his trial resumes on December 15th.
The trial has been adjourned nine times and there is a possibility it may be adjourned again. Mr Halawa faces the death penalty if convicted.
He has been detained since August 2013 and is charged with taking part in a banned protest in Cairo in July 2013.
He is one of 420 people charged with a range of offences. Charges against other people range from murder to attempted murder during a fatal attack on a police station in Ramses Square in central Cairo.
Window of opportunity
Ms Boylan said the opinion of the legal representatives in Brussels on Tuesday was that there was a window of opportunity to apply for the presidential decree before possible sentencing on December 15th rather than waiting until after sentencing.
“The presidential decree is worded quite specifically. If the accused is returned home they go into the legal process of their own home country. If they are sentenced then the sentence must be carried out in their home country. Which means if Ibrahim is sentenced to death the presidential decree could not apply because the sentence could not be administered in his home country,” she said.
She called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make the political case with the Egyptian president and to ask the European Commission to monitor the case.
Mr Halawa’s sister Somaia said she was not going to lose hope but said the longer the whole process went on the more it would destroy him mentally.
“Ibrahim could be home in 24 hours like Peter was.. it is very simple, we need to all work together, it’s a human rights issue.. the Government should listen to advice,” she said.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was continuing to avail of all opportunities at diplomatic level to secure the release of Ibrahim Halawa.
"Minister Flanagan has raised this matter on numerous occasions with his Egyptian counterpart, Minister Sameh Shoukry; there has also been extensive contact between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Egyptian Embassy here in Dublin, and between our Ambassador and Embassy and the Egyptian authorities in Cairo. The Taoiseach has also recently discussed this case with the Egyptian President in New York," it said.
The statement said the Government had formally supported an application made by Ibrahim Halawa's Egyptian legal team for his return to Ireland under the presidential decree.
“However, it is clear from all of the contacts made with Egyptian authorities that it is their position that the judicial process must be permitted to take its course before consideration can be given to this law with respect to Mr. Halawa. Any decision to release Mr. Halawa will ultimately be taken by the Egyptian authorities,” it said.
The statement concluded by saying that at Mr Halawa’s most recent hearing on October 4th, his Egyptian lawyers made another application for his release and that the Govewrnment’s formal support for this application had been directly conveyed to the judge.
Embassy officials will attend the trial on December 15th.