Peter Greste deportation renews hope for Ibrahim Halawa

Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy could be deported but Egyptian Baher Mohamed remains in jail

Australian journalist Peter Greste: his release was granted under a law permitting deportation of foreigners to their home countries for trial or to serve out sentences. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

Australian journalist Peter Greste: his release was granted under a law permitting deportation of foreigners to their home countries for trial or to serve out sentences. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

 

Egypt’s deportation of al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste to Australia – and the likely expulsion to Canada of his colleague Mohamed Fahmy – has given rise to renewed hope that imprisoned Irish national Ibrahim Halawa could also be on his way home soon.

Mr Greste left on an aircraft bound for Cyprus at the weekend, after completing 400 days of a seven-year prison sentence for colluding with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

At Larnaca, Mr Greste, accompanied by his brother Michael, transferred to a flight to Dubai from where he was travelling to Australia to be reunited with his parents. They have constantly campaigned for his release since he and two colleagues, Mr Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were arrested in December 2013.

Mr Greste’s deportation had been expected since Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has expressed exasperation over the imprisonment of the journalists, announced last November that presidential pardons were being studied.

Deportation of foreigners

Instead the release was granted under a law permitting deportation of foreigners to their home countries for trial or to serve out sentences. In January Egypt’s high court called for a retrial but the journalists were not freed on bail, as had been hoped.

Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, also given a seven-year sentence, could be deported once formalities are completed for his renunciation of his Egyptian citizenship. This would leave Egyptian Baher Mohamed, imprisoned for 10 years, in legal limbo and perhaps awaiting the outcome of the unscheduled retrial.

Neither Mr Greste, who also holds Latvian citizenship, nor Mr Fahmy are likely to be tried or imprisoned in their home countries. Their governments have exerted top level pressure on Cairo for their release.

The handling of Mr Fahmy’s case could serve as a precedent for dealing with Dublin-born Mr Halawa, awaiting trial on charges of murder and attempted murder since he took part in an August 2013 march protesting the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood stalwart.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he hoped the release of Mr Greste would be followed by a similar development for Mr Halawa. “I welcome the fact that there have been positive developments in the case of the Australian journalist. It’s my hope that the Irish student Ibrahim Halawa will return home,” he said.