Ibrahim Halawa addresses judges at trial in Cairo court

Irish man’s case in Egypt postponed for 17th time but request for medical exam granted

Ibrahim Halawa: the Irish man gave a 10-minute address in which he said he was innocent of all charges against him and asked to be deported to Ireland

Ibrahim Halawa: the Irish man gave a 10-minute address in which he said he was innocent of all charges against him and asked to be deported to Ireland

 

The young Irish man Ibrahim Halawa personally addressed the judges at his trial in Cairo on Tuesday, protesting his innocence and asking to be returned home to Ireland.

The trial of Mr Halawa, who turned 21 on Tuesday, was postponed for the 17th time and will not proceed until January 17th at the earliest. The Dublin man has been in prison in the Egyptian capital for almost 3½ years as a series of adjournments have delayed the mass trial of 494 defendants.

In court on Tuesday, the four judges hearing the case, including two who are new to the trial, granted a request by Mr Halawa’s legal team for the Irishman to speak to the court. In a 10-minute address, he said he was innocent of all charges against him and asked to be deported to Ireland. He was the only defendant to address the court.

A separate request from Mr Halawa’s lawyers for a medical examination was granted and that is expected to take place in the coming days.

Opening the 3½-hour session on Tuesday, the lead judge said he wished to speed up the trial but it is understood no indication was given of a concluding date. One of the issues that has held up progress in the past six months may be approaching a conclusion, however.

In June, a separate judge said he wished to consider video evidence in the case, reversing a stance taken by a previous judge, who has since retired, that video evidence would not be accepted. At the June hearing, a technical committee was established to examine the evidence and was told to report back by early October.

That deadline was missed, but on Tuesday the court heard the review of video evidence had been completed. A court clerk said copies of this review, in addition to medical reports, would be given to the defendants’ legal teams in January.

‘Maximum pressure’

FirhouseMohamed Morsi

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he regretted the latest adjournment but welcomed the progress on the technical review.

Mr Flanagan said the Government was applying “maximum pressure” on the Egyptian authorities in support of a pending application by Mr Halawa’s lawyers for his deportation to Ireland under an Egyptian law known as decree 140. He said the Government had also asked for Mr Halawa’s release under a new Egyptian amnesty scheme for young prisoners.

Mr Flanagan said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had been in “direct personal contact” with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on numerous occasions, most recently on November 17th, and that he was maintaining “regular contact” with foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and Egypt’s ambassador to Ireland, Soha Gendi. This was “to make sure that the Egyptian authorities are in no doubt about the importance we attach to the resolution of this case”

Farce

Lynn Boylan

Ms Boylan urged Mr Kenny to “pick up the phone” to Mr el-Sisi and said it was essential that the Government lobbied hard to ensure Mr Halawa was included in an ongoing review by the Egyptian authorities on its young prisoners.

Amnesty International, which has declared Mr Halawa a prisoner of conscience, said it was “beyond farcical” that the Irish man had spent 1,214 days in prison.

“He was arrested and arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” said Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty’s executive director in Ireland.