Ibrahim Halawa will ‘stay on hunger strike until release’

Irish teenager writes he is awaiting his ‘turn on the deathrope’ in Egyptian prison

 

Ibrahim Halawa, the Irish teenager who has been detained in an Egyptian prison for more than two years without trial, has gone on hunger strike for the second time.

In a letter released by his family, Mr Halawa explains his decision to go on hunger strike on October 21st, 2015 in protest for his freedom. At the time of writing - November 9th - he had already been on hunger strike for 20 days.

He said he would continue refusing food until his release.

“I will continue regardless of my bad health conditions,” he wrote. “Because in Egypt you must pay for your life in order to be released.”

It is the second time the 19-year-old from Firhouse has gone on hunger strike. In June 2015 his family reported Mr Halawa was refusing to eat in protest of his detention.

Mr Halawa was arrested at the Fatah mosque in central Cairo in August 2013 following a confrontation with security forces in the aftermath of the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi. He is now awaiting mass trial involving 494 defendants.

In the publicly-released letter he sent through his family, Mr Halawa writes he is “waiting in a queue for my turn on the death rope” and can feel the “ticking clock closer to my death”.

“For the past two years and 3 months I have been imprisoned unjustly... My only crime is being innocent.”

He warns that being tried through a mass trial will never grant him freedom and describes the anguish of living in an Egyptian prison: “This is a place where experimental torture is practiced. This is the place once you’re in there is no out.”

Torture

Research carried out by the human rights organisation Reprieve found Mr Halawa had been subject to torture while in prison, including beatings, denial of medical treatment and solitary confinement.

In the letter, Mr Halawa says he is striking for his release, not for better prison conditions. He adds his thanks for the support he has received during his two years in jail.

“I do not believe in the Egyptian judicial system but I believe in hope and my hope is to make it back home one day. Alive,” he writes.

In a statement accompanying the letter, the Halawa family called on the Egyptian government to set a time limit on Mr Halawa’s judicial process.

“Ibrahim’s physical health is greatly deteriorating,” wrote the family. “We hold the Egyptian authorities full [SIC]responsibilities towards Ibrahim’s physical and mental health.”

Lawyers for Mr Halawa appealed earlier this month to the British prime minister David Cameron to raise the case with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a visit to the UK.

In a letter to Mr Cameron, the legal team called for the case to be raised “as a matter of urgency” and for the Egyptians to be pressed on the teenager’s “immediate transfer to Ireland” under the terms of the Egyptian Law 140 of 2014.

Mr Halawa’s trial date has now been set for December 15th. According to his lawyers, if he is convicted he is at risk of being sentenced to death.