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Enda Kenny could yet intervene in the Ibrahim Halawa case

The Irish teenager has been held in a Cairo prison for over 600 days without trial.

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa

Updated 1.35pm 

THE POSSIBILITY OF the Taoiseach intervening in the case of Ibrahim Halawa has not been ruled out as the Irish teenager continues to be held in Egypt awaiting trial.

The 19-year-old from Tallaght has been held in Egypt for some 18 months after he was arrested during a protest at a mosque in Cairo in 2013.

Facing charges of murder, attempted murder and participating in an illegal protest, his mass trial was postponed for a fifth time last weekend.

Last Friday, Halawa’s sisters and opposition politicians called on Enda Kenny to directly intervene in the situation, saying after 600 days it was time for him to put pressure on Egyptian authorities.

Last night a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said he is “across the situation and concerned”. When asked whether Kenny was personally prepared to intervene they said they “certainly wouldn’t rule that out”.

“It is the case that he is being briefed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs [Charlie Flanagan] on it,” the spokesperson added.

This morning, the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs committee agreed to write to Kenny to ask him to examine how leaders in other jurisdictions had secured the release of citizens.

Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly pressed the issue, pointing to previous examples:

The Halawa sisters were in the Dáil yesterday as Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger raised the plight of their brother during Topical Issues.

Speaking on behalf of Charlie Flanagan, Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan insisted that politicians could not interfere in legal cases ongoing in foreign courts.

He told the Dáil that the latest postponement of the trial to 26 April was to allow for consideration of a petition made for Halawa’s release.

Speaking about last Sunday’s hearing, Deenihan said: “This hearing was different from previous postponed hearings. All the defendants were present and the judge indicated that he would accept oral or written submissions from the lawyers present on behalf of their clients.

Ibrahim Halawa’s lawyers formally presented an application for his release on bail and specifically referred to his youth, student status and Irish nationality. Among the documents submitted was a formal diplomatic note from the embassy confirming the support of the Government for the application… The fact that the Irish ambassador was present in the court was noted.

The Fine Gael TD rejected claims from opposition politicians that the government was failing to act because of Halawa’s Egyptian heritage. He urged politicians to be judicious in their comments on the case now that the petition for Halawa’s release is being considered.

Global Irish Diaspora Policies Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Deenihan also rejected claims that the teenager is being tortured in the Wadi al Natrun prison, which he was moved to last week and where there have been reports of detainees being subjected to violent treatment by authorities.

“While imprisonment abroad is traumatic for any young Irish citizen, based on the facts established by the ambassador through direct contact with the citizen, the reports of torture were discovered to be unfounded, nor had he been housed in a death penalty cell as had been suggested in some reports over the weekend,” the minister said.

“Unfortunately, these inaccurate reports may also have been damaging to our ongoing efforts in this case as they attributed to the Egyptian authorities a level of maltreatment and abuse that is not accurate.”

In a statement issued last night, Coppinger said she was amazed by Deenihan claiming that Halawa had not been subjected to ill-treatment at the Cairo prison.

“Ibrahim Halawa was shaved and beaten since being moved to the notorious Wadi-Natroun prison where prisoners have died from being tortured. Is the government now saying there is an acceptable level of beatings and that don’t constitute torture?” she said.

“If this is how the government is pursuing the case it is extremely worrying. It’s incredible the government or Consulate would give any credence to the idea that a fair trial and even fair detention is possible under the brutal Egyptian regime which routinely carries out mass ‘trials’ and executions.”

Read: Trial postponed for fifth time as Ibrahim pleads ‘They’re killing me here, they’re torturing me

Read: ‘If we don’t do anything now, Ibrahim will die’

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Hugh O'Connell

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