Minister appeals to campaigners over stance on Halawa case

Charlie Flanagan acknowledges opposition to approach to seeking Irish citizen’s release

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has acknowledged there are campaigners who do not agree with the Government's approach to seeking the release of Ibrahim Halawa from prison in Egypt.

But he appealed “to all those who have this citizen’s best interests in mind to ensure their actions and public statements are not such that they could jeopardise our considered and concerted efforts to achieve positive progress for this citizen and his release at the earliest opportunity”.

The Minister said he had spoken yesterday at length with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and also spoke to him a number of times over the summer. Minister of State Sean Sherlock met the Egyptian ambassador yesterday and Ireland's new ambassador to Egypt visited Mr Halawa this week.

He said the Taoiseach raised the case with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in New York in September.

Ongoing contact

He told Socialist Party TD

Joe Higgins

there was ongoing contact between his department and the Egyptian authorities.

He said the Government had also formally supported applications made by lawyers on Mr Halawa’s behalf, for his release on bail. Mr Halawa was arrested with his sisters and hundreds of others when they took refuge in a mosque during protests in Cairo in 2013. His sisters were released.

Mr Flanagan said Mr Halawa was a minor at the time of his arrest “and the group nature of his trial gives rise to particular concerns”.

Mr Higgins said Mr Halawa was the only EU citizen in an Egyptian jail on a political charge and he believed it was clear the Government “should demand action that will avoid a trial”. He also said the family had not been told what the Taoiseach said to the Egyptian president or the response.

The Minister said the Government exercised care to ensure its actions “will be well judged and not detract from our key goal of securing positive progress for this citizen at the earliest possible time”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times

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