Consider breaking Egypt ties over Ibrahim Halawa - Martin

All-party delegation to be set up to visit Egyptian parliament and Mr Halawa in jail

Omaima (left), Fatima and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, campaign for his release. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

Omaima (left), Fatima and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, campaign for his release. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The Dáil has agreed an all-party motion seeking the release of Ibrahim Halawa, who has been held without trial in an Egyptian prison for more than three years since he was aged 17.

The motion calls for Egyptian ambassador Soha Gendi to appear before the Oireachtas foreign affairs committee to address the repeated delays in his trial.

An all-party delegation will be established to visit the Egyptian parliament and to visit Mr Halawa, an Irish citizen, in prison. His trial was adjourned for the 13th time last week.

Deputy Green Party leader Catherine Martin said if all diplomatic interventions failed “it may become necessary that some consideration be made to suspending diplomatic relations” over the case.

The Dáil motion welcomes the move by the Government to give its full support to a second application under Egypt’s presidential decree to seek Mr Halawa’s release.

Mr Halawa was arrested as he and his sisters took refuge in a Cairo mosque during anti-government protests in the city in August 2013. His sisters were later released.

He is one of almost 500 defendants in a mass trial, with penalties up to the death sentence under consideration.

Members of Mr Halawa’s family were in the Dáil’s public gallery for the hour-long debate.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke to the Egyptian president on Monday for the third time about Mr Halawa’s case.

He told the Dáil the Taoiseach set out the arguments for Mr Halawa’s release. The Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said he wanted the case to be resolved in the context of a “positive bilateral relationship” between the two countries, but the Egyptian government was not in a position to intervene in a case that was still before the courts.

Mr Flanagan said the case had received unprecedented attention and they had been using all the tools available to them to apply maximum pressure on the Egyptian government at the highest level, “to ensure they fully understand our concerns and the importance this Government attaches to resolve” the issue.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said: “At Ibrahim’s most recent trial the judge decided to release two defendants for no reason and, more worryingly, three of the 493 defendants in the trial have died since the last hearing. This demonstrates how urgent it is for the Government to act.”

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the delays in his case were “disheartening, frustrating and very upsetting, not least for the family, who have endured so much”.

Ms Zappone said she looked forward to the day “I will join the Halawa family in welcoming Ibrahim back to Firhouse”.

The Green Party initiated the motion, which all political groupings took up. Deputy party leader Catherine Martin said “I met the Egyptian ambassador, but I regret to say I took nothing from that meeting that could give confidence or hope”.

Ms Martin said that if all diplomatic interventions failed “it may become necessary that some consideration be made to suspending diplomatic relations” or to give consideration to trade restrictions.

“Ibrahim Halawa: we say his name loudly and clearly here today, so Egypt hears our one united voice,” she said.

Ireland will not stand for this.”

She said of Mr Halawa: “We are in many respects his only hope, his last hope”.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said: “He was detained without trial for simply protesting, as far as we know,” and it was unthinkable for a civilised society.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said people should not “recycle the claims of the Egyptian government that there is a thing called the separation of powers in Egypt.

“All semblance of any kind of legal due process, anything one could even remotely call a legal process has been abandoned by the al-Sisi regime.”

Fianna Fáil Dublin South West TD John Lahart said some of the remarks in the debate had been intemperate.

He said: “I regard consular officials as some of the great patriots of this country who are the last line of defence for our citizens.”

Mr Lahart said “without wanting to be dramatic” he wondered to what extent the fact Mr Halawa was still alive was helped by the efforts of the Department of Foreign Affairs and consular officials.

He believed the “next obvious step is a speedy parliamentary delegation to Cairo”, and the Minister alerting the Egyptian ambassador to the unanimous support of the Dáil for the motion.

Additional reporting: Press Association