Government has no confirmation of Ibrahim Halawa’s release date

Taoiseach says family want to keep arrangements for Irishman’s return private

 Ibrahim Halawa: arrested during  Muslim Brotherhood protests which took place in Cairo in August 2013. Photograph: Family Handout/PA Wire

Ibrahim Halawa: arrested during Muslim Brotherhood protests which took place in Cairo in August 2013. Photograph: Family Handout/PA Wire

 

The Government has had no confirmation of when Ibrahim Halawa will be released from prison, the Dáil has heard.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Halawa’s family wanted to keep arrangements for his return private.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil he had written to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney had spoken to his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry “to request his help in expediting the process”.

Mr Halawa (21), an Irish citizen, was arrested during a protest in Cairo in 2013 in support of ousted then president Mohammed Morsi.

He was acquitted of all charges two weeks ago after spending more than four years in prison. Three of his sisters who were arrested with him but released on bail three months later. They were also found not guilty.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who raised the issue, asked what was the reason for the delay in the release of Mr Halawa and said “arguably, he is illegally-held”.

He suggested the delay was because of paperwork and called on the Taoiseach to find out and inform the Dáil why the release was delayed.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said it was a matter of grave concern that the case took so long and “this cannot be let go where it relates to our relationship with Egypt”.

He said “it cannot be merely all is forgiven” and there had to be some evaluation of an Irish citizen being four years in prison without any due process.

He added that the practices of the current Egyptian government were “unacceptable particularly in relation to human rights and due process”.

The Taoiseach said that since Mr Halawa’s acquittal, “the Government remains focused on ensuring he gets home as soon as possible”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish embassy in Cairo is liaising closely with the Halawa family including on travel arrangements, Mr Varadkar said.

Irish authorities and Mr Halawa’s legal representatives remain in ongoing contact with the Egyptian authorities, he added.

“We have no confirmation at this stage on when Ibrahim will be returning home to Dublin but his family have indicated that they wish to keep the arrangements for his return private and I think everyone will want to respect that.”

Mr Martin said Mr Halawa and his family “had received considerable support from the Irish people, which has to be acknowledged”.

The Taoiseach told Mr Martin that in terms of normalising relations with Egypt, this case had been the State’s most significant engagement in the past four years.

“We have maintained diplomatic relations with Egypt and cordial relations at Government-to-government level throughout.”

He said this was important in ensuring the Irish embassy in Cairo had consular access to support Mr Halawa.

Asked if the embassy still had access, Mr Varadkar said he would check that out but he assumed so as they would have had to be there to give him his passport.

The Taoiseach said the State would not step back from raising human rights issues with Egypt or other countries and he did not believe relations could go back to normal overnight.

“Nonetheless, it is very much the wish of the Government that we normalise relations with Egypt.”