Tánaiste says embassy in contact with Halawa brother

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels amid deadlock over Ukraine

Undated family handout photo of Ibrihim Halawa with sisters Fatima, Omaima and Somaia.

Undated family handout photo of Ibrihim Halawa with sisters Fatima, Omaima and Somaia.


Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has said the Irish embassy in Cairo is in constant contact with the family and representatives of Ebraheem Halawa (17), following the release of his sisters last week.

The siblings Omaima (21), Soumaia (28), Fatima (22) and Ebraheem were arrested during clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and security forces.

Mr Halawa is due to appear in court today in Cairo.

“I hope that he will be able to return also,” the Minister for Foreign Affairs said in Brussels this morning, adding that arrangements were under way for the three Halawa sisters to return to Dublin.

The sisters were reunited with family members in Cairo on Friday night after being released from prison. It is understood that a fine of more than €1,000 was paid in respect of each woman.

The family had been hopeful that Ebraheem would be released over the weekend but attention is now turning towards an expected court appearance today.

Speaking to The Irish Times at the weekend another sibling, Nosayba Halawa, said the family hoped to be all together again this week and be back in Dublin on Thursday.

Ms Halawa earlier said she had late last week spoken directly with her sisters, for the first time since their detention. She said they were “okay” but had no further information as to what condition they were in.

“I have heard they were kept in the one room for two months without leaving. I don’t know exactly what condition they are in.”

The Tánaiste arrived in Brussels this morning for a meeting of foreign affairs ministers amid continuing deadlock over the issue of the EU’s relationship with Ukraine, less than 10 days before a landmark agreement between the EU and the former Soviet country is due to be signed at a summit in Vilnius.

The status of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister who is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Kiev, has moved centre stage in the debate over deepening ties between the EU and the former Soviet state.

Mr Gilmore said that while Ireland supported an association agreement with Ukraine, “some work remains to be done” between now and the end of November before a decision can be made. “The issue here really here is about selective justice. We have to be satisfied that Ukraine has made sufficient progress on that. I don’t think sufficient progress has been made yet.”

A number of proposals are under discussion between the EU and Kiev under the terms of a possible release of Ms Tymoshenko to Germany for medical treatment, under condition that she returns to Ukraine to complete her sentence.

Threats from Moscow of sanctions should the Ukraine decide to deepen ties with the EU have also threatened to derail the process, despite Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovich putting greater integration with Europe at the centre of his foreign policy agenda.

Ms Tymoshenko, a political rival of Mr Yanukovich, was imprisoned in 2011 over her role in negotiations in 2009 with Russia over the price of natural gas.

Ministers will also be briefed by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on the status of the talks with, Iran which are due to resume on Wednesday in Geneva.

Arriving in Tel Aviv yesterday for a three-day visit, French president Francois Hollande indicated that France will continue to push for stringent conditions in exchange for an easing of sanctions. “France will not make concessions on nuclear proliferation. France will maintain all its measures and sanctions until we are certain that Iran has renounced nuclear weapons,” Mr Hollande said.

Mr Hollande is to meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas later in the week. Yesterday, it was reported that Saudi Arabia was working with Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency on a contingency plan for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear programme is not significantly curbed.