Flanagan: Plight of imprisoned Ibrahim Halawa ‘a priority’

Responding to family’s criticism, Minister acknowledges their ‘deep personal trauma’

Omaima (left) Fatima and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa aged 18, who is in prison in Egypt. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Omaima (left) Fatima and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa aged 18, who is in prison in Egypt. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

 

The Government is treating the case of imprisoned Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa in Egypt as a priority legally, diplomatically and politically, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan has said.

Responding to the Halawa family’s criticism that Government pressure on the Egyptian authorities was not working, Mr Flanagan said that he was monitoring closely “the legal efforts in the form of an application for bail” for the 19-year-old Irish national from Tallaght, Co Dublin, who has been in custody since his arrest in August 2013.

“I acknowledge the deep personal trauma of the family. I understand their position and I will continue to work to seek a resolution to this issue,” he said.

Speaking on a visit to the Boston area, Mr Flanagan declined to respond to comments by Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan who last week questioned whether the Government would be doing more for the teenager if his name was “Paddy Murphy”.

“We are prioritising this case from a legal perspective, from a diplomatic perspective and from a political perspective but I am not going to enter into any argument with politicians over it,” he said.

Charges

His trial was adjourned last week until April 26th, the fifth time the case has been postponed, adding to concerns about his welfare.

The Minister noted that he had met Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry three times and the Irish ambassador in Cairo Isolde Moylan was taking “a deep interest” in the case.

“I am very concerned that the trial in Egypt has yet again been adjourned. Ibrahim Halawa is on remand in custody now for almost 600 days. It is too long. He needs to be released. He needs to be home with his family,” said Mr Flanagan.

The Minister, attending the official dedication of the Edward M Kennedy Institute, met Vice President Joe Biden briefly after the ceremony.

The two spoke about the plight of illegal Irish immigrants in the US and about finding ways to allow them travel back and forth freely to Ireland.

“The vice president said that he would continue to work closely at the highest level to find a formula,” said Mr Flanagan.

The Minister described Mr Biden as being “very sensitive” to the predicament of the “undocumented” Irish.

Mr Flanagan said that notwithstanding the difficult and complex legal issues involved, he hoped that that the two countries “could work through a formula that will give to rise an ultimate solution for the Irish undocumented here.”

The two politicians also discussed the political talks on welfare reforms in Northern Ireland. Mr Flanagan stressed to Mr Biden that it was “important that the assistance and support and influence of the US administration remain”.