President calls for ‘urgent resolution’ of Ibrahim Halawa trial

Detention of Irish citizen (21) raised with Coptic pope and Egyptian ambassador

President Higgins receives Pope Tawadros II at Áras an Uachtaráin. Photograph: Maxwell Photography

President Higgins receives Pope Tawadros II at Áras an Uachtaráin. Photograph: Maxwell Photography

 

President Michael D Higgins has called for an urgent resolution to the four-year trial in Egypt of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa.

Mr Halawa (21) from Firhouse in Dublin, has been in prison in Cairo since being detained in the city in 2013. Hearings in the case, a mass trial of 494 people, have been adjourned more than 20 times.

The President raised Mr Halawa’s detention during a meeting with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Christian Church, Pope Tawadros II, at Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin.

A spokesman for Mr Higgins said: “The leaders emphasised the crucial value of human rights, including the freedom of religion and the rights of prisoners.

“President Higgins made particular reference to the pressing case of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, which he described as needing an urgent resolution.”

Mr Halawa, the son of a prominent Muslim cleric in Dublin, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, was imprisoned after being detained in a mosque near Ramses Square in Cairo as the Muslim Brotherhood protested over the removal of elected president Mohamed Morsi in August 2013.

He says he has been tortured and has gone on hunger strikes during his imprisonment. Amnesty International is among those who have called for his release.

Pope Tawadros II also held talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

“We share the humanitarian concern of his family, who are well known to us,” Dr Martin said.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin welcomes Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin welcomes Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Church, in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

There was no reaction from either Egypt’s ambassador to Ireland, Soha Gendi, or Pope Tawardos II to the comments made after meeting at the Archbishop’s House in Dublin.

The Coptic pope is in Dublin, accompanied by a large entourage of Coptic priests and bishops, to bless a new Coptic church in Drumcondra, the former Catholic church of St Alphonsus.