Verdict expected today in trial of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa
Varadkar and Coveney to contact their counterparts in Egypt when court decision known
Ibrahim Halawa: Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has said Mr Halawa will be returned to Ireland once the trial has concluded
A verdict is expected to be delivered in Egypt today in the trial of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who has been detained in prison in Cairo for more than four years.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will begin immediate high-levels contacts to have Mr Halawa (21) returned to Ireland as soon as the court delivers its verdict.
Mr Halawa, from Firhouse in Dublin, was arrested along with hundreds of others in Cairo during a mass demonstration against the military ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood government in August 2013. He was 17-years-old at the time.
He has been on trial with 493 others, but the process has been beset by delays, and substantive hearings have only taken place in the past eight months. No evidence implicating Mr Halawa was presented to the three-judge court.
Mr Varadkar will telephone Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on Monday and Mr Coveney is also expected to contact his counterpart, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry.
The Egyptian president has said Mr Halawa will be returned to Ireland once the trial has concluded. A concerted diplomatic effort will begin as soon as the verdict is known to ensure his immediate return.
Mr Varadkar’s call is intended to ensure Mr al-Sisi honours the commitment given about allowing the student return home.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said work to help Mr Halawa and his family continued through the weekend. “Ireland’s Ambassador to Egypt, Damien Cole, will, once again, be present in the court to observe proceedings and to hear the verdict and sentence being announced,” he said.
Last night, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said her “thoughts, prayers and solidarity” were with Mr Halawa’s family and the thousands who have campaigned on his behalf ahead of the expected verdict.
“His loved ones have been some of the most inspiring people I have campaigned side by side with,” she said. “Their resilience has been a privilege to see at first hand during vigils, demonstrations and within the corridors of Government Buildings in meetings with the Taoiseach and other Ministers.”
There has been criticism of the political response to the Halawa case, with the Opposition saying the current and last governments had been too tentative and cautious.
A parliamentary delegation led by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl visited Mr Halawa in prison outside Cairo last year and also directly asked Egyptian authorities for his return to Ireland.
Mr Halawa’s family say his physical and mental health have deteriorated in detention. His sister Somaia said she felt unsure as to “whether it really is coming to an end” and that the family was apprehensive. “We are very hopeful, very sad, very happy – all these mixed feelings together.”
Three of Mr Halawa’s sisters – Somaia, Fatima and Omaima – are also due to receive verdicts in their cases on Monday. The three women were arrested on the same day as Mr Halawa but were released on bail in November 2013 and returned to Ireland.