Irish MEP calls on Government to do more for Ibrahim Halawa

Trial of Dubliner was adjourned for a 10th time last weekend

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin following her time in Egypt where she met with Ibrahim Halawa. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin following her time in Egypt where she met with Ibrahim Halawa. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin – describing Mr Halawa as a “young Dub who speaks with a Dublin accent” – questioned the Irish Government’s “behind-the-scenes” strategy on securing his release.

“We are not doubting they (government officials) are working on Ibrahim’s behalf. Ibrahim is grateful for everything that they are doing. But we differ – we think a more public and open approach to this would be more helpful to Ibrahim, especially given the fact he was a juvenile and is in arbitrary detention for such a long period of time, two years. Their strategy is clearly not working.

“While it would be politically difficult for the Egyptian authorities to release Ibrahim while the trial has not completed, we still say that pressure should be exerted on them and the very least the Irish Government should be calling for is his release on bail.”

Mr Halawa (19) was arrested in Cairo in August 2013 after getting caught up in a confrontation with security forces, during a protest against the military Government.

He has been awaiting trial along with 420 others since being detained. The mass trial, which was due to begin last weekend, was adjourned for a 10th time and is now due to begin on October 4th.

Ms Boylan visited Mr Halawa last weekend along with one of his sisters, Khadija, and his solicitor Darragh Mackin.

They had an hour with him in the deputy-governor’s office in the prison. The meeting was the first time since Mr Halawa’s arrest that he has had physical contact with his family. Up to now, he has been allowed one three-minute visit a week with family during which they are separated with a glass screen.

Ms Boylan described as “heartbreaking” the moment when Ibrahim was brought into the room, “and to see the interaction between him and his sister.

“They hugged for a very, very long time. It was the first human, physical contact Ibrahim had had with family relatives for almost two years. So it was a very emotional visit.”

Though his mood had lifted during the course of the one-hour visit, he “openly admitted that he is very depressed, very frustrated, by the not knowing when it’s going to the end and the fact he can’t see his family”.

He told them he had been beaten with rods and he shared a 5m by 4 m cell, with a hole in the ground as a toilet and no beds, with nine other men.

She met staff at the Irish consulate in Cairo and said she was “concerned” at the lack of resources since former Irish ambassador, Isolde Moylan, left in April. The Irish embassy in Cairo is accredited to cover five countries – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Sudan. She called for the fast-tracking of a new ambassador to the region.

“The status of an ambassador carries more weight in official negotiations. The status of an official in Egypt is very important.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said “it is the Government’s considered view, supported by decades of diplomatic experience in other consular cases and extensive consultation with states which have had citizens in similar circumstances, that the firm and measured diplomatic approach we are taking remains Ibrahim’s best hope for return to Ireland at the earliest possible date. The Government has formally supported applications by Ibrahim Halawa’s legal team for both release on bail and release under the Presidential decree on foreign prisoners.”