Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore has expressed concern about Egyptian media reports that four Irish citizens detained during unrest in Cairo are among nine foreign nationals being investigated for charges including attempted murder, possessing firearms and belonging to a militant group.
Irish officials have not yet been able to confirm the reports that four Irish nationals – believed to be the Halawa siblings, Omaima (21), Fatima (23), Soumaia (27) and brother Ebraheem (17) from Dublin – are among those jailed for 15 days by a Cairo prosecutor pending investigations into deadly violence that erupted around the city’s al-Fath mosque at the weekend.
According to one report, all detainees denied the charges and told the prosecutor they were passing by the district and sought refuge in al-Fath Mosque when the clashes broke out. Turkish journalist Metin Turan, a correspondent with Turkey's TRT network, is among those detained.
The reports of charges emerged after a representative from the Irish Embassy in Cairo was granted consular access to the Halawas on Tuesday afternoon. The diplomat met the siblings at the security forces headquarters in the Tora district of Cairo. There are indications they may have since been transferred to another facility.
The siblings were on their annual family holiday when they decided to take part in protests against the military overthrow last month of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president. All are Irish citizens and, according to their family in Dublin, all travelled to Egypt on Irish passports.
“We have maintained very close contact with the family. We will continue to provide them with the normal consular assistance to anyone who has been detained,” Mr Gilmore said on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Egypt. “Our primary concern is their welfare. They are four Irish citizens and we are monitoring very closely what is happening to them.”
Mr Gilmore said the Halawa case was not discussed specifically at the meeting. Foreign ministers did, however, make a call for the release of all political prisoners swept up in the recent crackdown by the interim army-backed regime.
Mr Gilmore condemned what he described as the military’s “savage and disproportionate” use of force against pro-Morsi protests last week, but said the violence was not confined to the authorities.