Delay in Cairo trial of Halawa could ‘deepen depression’

Trial of Irish teenager detained since 2013 postponed until February 8th

The trial of Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa has been postponed until February 8th.

The trial of Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa has been postponed until February 8th.

 

The postponement until February 8th of the Cairo trial of Irish national Ibrahim Halawa could deepen the severe depression which has gripped him in recent weeks, according to his sister

Dublin-born of Egyptian parents, Mr Halawa (19) has been charged with murder, attempted murder and taking part in an illegal protest with another 193 defendants.

He has been declared a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International which has demanded his unconditional release. Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has expressed concern about his continued detention and was “very disappointed” at Tuesday’s postponement.

Officials said the delay was due to concern over the possibility of violence during Tuesday’s celebration of the Coptic Christian Christmas. Concerns were raised when two policemen guarding a Coptic church in southern Egypt were shot and killed. Coptic churches have been repeated targeted by fundamentalists since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood stalwart, in July 2013.

This was the fourth postponement of proceedings against the group.

Before the delay was announced, Irish Ambassador Isolde Moylan had spent 90 minutes in the court, convened at the police academy next to Tora prison. The only defendants to appear were three minors brought from a distant juvenile facility to the court in the expectation that proceedings would begin.

Mr Halawa and his three sisters, Somaia (28), Fatima (23), and Omaima (21), were detained on August 17th, 2013, following a banned march protesting the ouster of Mr Morsi.

Mr Halawa’s sisters were held for three months, released, and allowed to return to Dublin where their father, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, is the most senior Muslim cleric and imam of the Clonskeagh mosque.

Mr Halawa shares a cell with al-Jazeera journalists Australian-Latvian dual national Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed whose sentences of 7-10 years imprisonment for promoting the agenda of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood were dismissed by the Egyptian high court on New Year’s Day and a new trial ordered.

Mr Halawa’s sister, Nosayba, who spent an hour with him on Monday told The Irish Times, “Ibrahim is so depressed that he is not feeling any hope” He feels he has done nothing with his life and the ambassador has asked the prison authorities to provide him with a doctor to deal with his depression, she said.

“I spoke with his lawyer who does not know how [the case] is going to go,” she said.

Although a brave face has been put on the high court’s decision to order the retrial of the journalists, she was told by the wife of Baher Mohamed they have also grown depressed because they had hoped for acquittal or release on bail.

They do not know when the retrial will take place and cannot predict the result. Lawyers for Mr Greste and Mr Fahmy have applied for them to be repatriated for trial or incarceration in accordance with a decree issued last November by president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. If they are granted transfer, Mr Halawa could appeal to be sent to Ireland.

Nosayba Halawa arrived here from Dublin in mid-December and visited her brother twice during that month as well as this week. Since additional visits have been granted during the holidays she will try to see him again him tomorrow. Whenever she visits she takes him clean clothing and food. However, the prison no longer permits relatives to take food for more than one day. “Ibrahim does not eat prison food,” she said. “It is very bad.”

Mr Flanagan said “the charges against Ibrahim should be reviewed, and that he be released and permitted to return home to Ireland to his family and his studies. Mr Flanagan said he has also raised the case with the new EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.

“Although Ireland is precluded from directly interfering with the ongoing judicial process in Egypt, we have raised our concern at the continued and lengthy period of detention with the Egyptian authorities in a clear and sustained manner.”

Labour TD Joe Costello said the decision to postpone the trial was “unacceptable”. “This is the fourth time that the trial has been postponed. In the meantime, Mr Halawa has been detained in custody for over 18 months. Justice delayed is justice denied, and he should be released and allowed home to Ireland to complete his studies” Mr Costello said.