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Costello: "I pulled out all the stops" to free Irish teen from Egyptian prison

Ibrahim Halawa, who is 18-years-old, is facing as long as 10 years in prison.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

MINISTER JOE COSTELLO has said that the government has pulled out “all the stops” to free an Irish teenage from an Egyptian prison.

Ibrahim Halawa, who is now 18-years-old, was imprisoned along with his three sisters last August after taking part in a protest calling for the reinstatement of ousted president Mohammed Morsi that turned violent.

Their father, Hussein Halawa, is the Imam of the Clonskeagh Mosque. Wikileaks correspondence released in 2011 included suggestions that he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Somaia, Fatima and Omaima were held for three months before they were freed and allowed to return to Ireland.

However, speaking today on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Somaia Halawa believes not enough is being done to free her brother, who could face as long as 10 years in prison.

She suggested that he is being treated differently ‘because he doesn’t look Irish’.

“We’re not really getting much support from the EU… the embassy visits him regularly, which is good,” she said, but that the Department of Foreign Affairs has ‘not taken any serious action’.

She told the programme about some of the conditions faced in the prison, including that her brother has nothing to eat, only dirty water to drink, and has developed a skin condition.

Speaking on the same programme, Minister of State Joe Costello rejected suggestions that his Department had not take enough action, noting that the Irish government has called on Egyptian authorities to release the 18-year-old.

“We have done our best to bring any influence we have to bear on Egyptian authorities,” he said, however he was told that Halawa “has charges to answer” despite no specific charges being brought ahead of his trial on 16 July.

Costello also voiced fears that his sentencing would take the form of a “mass trial, out of kilter with any democratic norm”.

The minister also said that “all Irish citizens are treated exactly the same” and that “there is no question of any discrimination”.

Open letter: Taoiseach and Tánaiste, fight Egypt’s jailing of journalists >

Read: Cairo sentencing of Al Jazeera journalists a “ferocious attack” on media – Amnesty >

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Nicky Ryan

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