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Leo Varadkar speaks for 25 minutes with Egyptian president regarding Ibrahim Halawa

The 21-year-old Irish citizen has been in jail in Egypt for over four years.

Updated at 7.35pm

AN TAOISEACH LEO Varadkar spoke over the phone with the Egyptian president today, expressing his disappointment at the further delay in the verdict of the trial of Ibrahim Halawa.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach’s department said that Varadkar made it clear to Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that his priority was to secure Halawa’s return to Ireland as quick as possible.

Source: Somaia Halawa

The Egyptian president said he would not interfere in a judicial process but gave Varadkar his word that he would resolve the matter swiftly within the Egyptian constitutional and legal framework once the trial concludes and the verdict is known.

The 21-year-old Halawa’s verdict was due today, over four years after he was arrested at a protest and jailed in Cairo, Egypt. However, this has now been postponed until 18 September.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney confirmed there will be no verdict today and described the development as “frustrating”.

“This is very frustrating for Ibrahim Halawa and for his family, who were expecting some definitive news today, and I fully share that sense of disappointment and frustration at yet another delay in this long-running case,” he said in a statement.

Nonetheless, we will be continuing to work in support of Ibrahim and his family and doing everything we can to ensure that he is able to return to Ireland as soon as possible once the trial ends.

Responding to the news, Halawa’s sister Somaia said it “is truly upsetting and heart-breaking to constantly keep having our expectations and hopes shattered into a million pieces”.

“It is not just Ibrahim’s life that is being played around with but also the entire family’s life.”

Halawa was arrested during a protest in 2013 in support of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi who had been ousted from power in a military coup.

His solicitor, Darragh Mackin, described the news as “devastating” for Halawa and his family.

“Regrettably, this is not the first time the case has been due to conclude when a last minute – unexpected and unjustified decision is taken to delay the case further. We are now four years on, with each day and each false dawn having a hugely significant mental and physical impact on our client’s health,” he said.

“It is not known when this case will ever end. Such irrational and unpredictable decisions cannot be allowed to continue, and in particular when they operate in a vacuum of lawfulness depriving our client of his basic rights.”

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, who is Halawa’s local TD, expressed her “deep disappointment” at the postponement.

“Ibrahim and his family are in my thoughts and prayers during this enormously difficult time,” she said.

At a time when hopes are high this further delay is very frustrating. Nevertheless, we must continue to put in place the supports necessary to ensure Ibrahim’s health and well-being when he is allowed home to be reunited with his loved ones.”

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Presidential powers

Earlier today, Minister Coveney had told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that while he hoped Halawa would be found innocent, the government is working to get Halawa to Ireland “as soon as possible” regardless of outcome.

If Halawa is to serve more jail time, the government will ask the Egyptian president to “follow through on a commitment he has made to send Ibrahim home using the presidential powers that he has”, Coveney said.

Speaking to reporters today, Health Minister Simon Harris said today is a “very disappointing, very frustrating” day.

“Yet again there has been another delay, but we really feel we are moving nearer to a finality on the matter whereby a verdict could be passed and then the Egyptian President could fulfill the commitment he made to the former Taoiseach, which I hope he would reiterate to the Taoiseach today and Ibrahim Halawa can then be returned to this country,” said Harris.

The minister said he is already in discussions with his department about what health supports Ibrahim might need upon his return to Ireland.

“Of course today is very disappointing, very frustrating, but as the Minister for Foreign Affairs said, we continue our work on a diplomatic level and we hope a verdict is delivered in three weeks.”

- Additional reporting by Sinead Baker, Michelle Hennessy, Christina Finn and Cormac Fitzgerald.

Read: ‘These are mere stories’: Egyptian ambassador denies Ibrahim Halawa was tortured in prison >

Read: Almost four years after arrest, Halawa’s lawyers have been able to defend him in court >

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