Ibrahim Halawa: Case will shift to political domain if outcome bad
Government has intensified lobbying on case but faced backlash for not criticising Egypt
Today, verdicts could finally be delivered in a mass trial involving the young Irishman Ibrahim Halawa (above), who has been in prison in Egypt since his arrest during protests against the ousting of then-president Mohamed Morsi in mid-August 2013.
It has taken almost three years, 13 adjournments and a trial that has involved no evidence being produced, no witnesses being called and no defence submissions being taken.
But today, verdicts could finally be delivered in the mass trial involving the young Irishman Ibrahim Halawa, who has been in prison in Egypt since his arrest during protests against the ousting of then-president Mohamed Morsi in mid-August 2013.
Throughout, the Egyptian government has maintained it cannot intervene in the case while it remains in judicial hands. This has always been contested on legal grounds by Halawa’s family and supporters, who pointed out that the al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste was released on foot of a presidential decree before a conviction.
But as a political position, Cairo has held its stance, while hinting there could be room for manoeuvre after the conclusion of the trial.
In an interview with The Irish Times last year, Egyptian ambassador Soha Gendi in effect confirmed as much, saying she “prayed” Halawa would not face the most serious charges, “for us to be able to do something at a later stage”. That position could be tested in the coming days and weeks.
Raised issue directly
The Government has intensified its lobbying in the past year. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has raised the issue directly with the Egyptian president.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has raised it numerous times with his Egyptian counterpart, and it is understood EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has also raised the case with Cairo.
But the longer Halawa has remained in prison, the more criticism the Government has faced - in particular for its position of refraining from public criticism of Egypt.
The best-case scenario for Halawa and family is clearly an acquittal. Alternatively, he could be given a sentence of time already served and walk out of jail this week.
But if the 20-year-old receives a longer custodial sentence or a death penalty – a possibility the Egyptian government has said is off the table but that Halawa’s lawyers say is legally still in play – the case will immediately shift to the political domain.
Applications for both a presidential pardon and a decree could be lodged within days, Halawa’s legal team has indicated.
At that point, the next stage – political intervention in an attempt to persuade the Egyptian authorities to allow Halawa return to Ireland – would commence.