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Egypt rejects call to release Ibrahim Halawa as trial postponed again

In a harsh statement, Cairo also called on the European body to reconsider its approach to similar cases in the future.

Image: Fatima Halawa

Updated at 12.50pm

THE TRIAL OF Ibrahim Halawa has been postponed for the 11th time.

Last night Egypt rejected a plea from the European Parliament to release the Irish-Egyptian teenager who was detained during a pro-Islamist protest in Cairo two years ago, with the country’s foreign ministry saying the request amounted to a “violation of the independence” of its judiciary.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan said the Halawa family, who are currently in Cairo, said the trial had been postponed as a witness failed to appear.

He is next due in court early in the new year.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he was “disappointed” by the further delay, and has conveyed his concern over the length of Halawa’s detention directly to the Egyptian government.

However, he believes the Egyptian government is in “no doubt” as to Ireland’s interest in Halawa’s welfare.

“I am also worried by reports that the lawyers involved in this trial have collectively withdrawn from the case and I hope this matter can be resolved as soon as possible,” Flanagan said.

“This case is receiving high priority in my Department. Officials from Ireland’s Embassy to the Arab Republic of Egypt represented the Irish Government at today’s hearing in Cairo.

The attendance at the hearings and the many consular visits reflect the seriousness with which the Government approaches this case. My Department will continue to provide appropriate consular assistance to Mr Halawa and his family, and will continue to try to secure positive progress for him at the earliest possible date.
While the lengthy nature of the trial and the many adjournments are clearly frustrating for Mr. Halawa and his family and for all of us who wish to see Ibrahim home in Ireland, the government is resolutely focused on achieving a positive outcome for this citizen at the earliest time possible.

Boylan said in a statement: ”This latest adjournment, till 9th of January, is a major disappointment for Ibrahim and his family who are desperately worried about him.”

The Irish Government should call for Ibrahim’s immediate and unconditional release which is what 91% of the European Parliament did this week.

Cairo yesterday called on the European Parliament to reconsider its approach to similar cases in the future.

Halawa, who along with 494 defendants, faces charges of murder and vandalism.

The defendants were all arrested in a 2013 protest in the Egyptian capital’s central Ramsis Square against the military’s overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the violent dispersal in August that year of a sit-in by Morsi’s supporters in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya square, when hundreds of people were killed.

The ministry also dismissed allegations that Halawa was tortured in custody and is on hunger strike. It refuted Europe’s claim that he may face the death penalty, saying that Egyptian law does not impose capital punishment on offenders under 18.

Halawa, who holds dual Egyptian and Irish nationalities, was 17 at the time of his arrest.

Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt has launched a crackdown on the country’s Islamists that saw hundreds killed and thousands thrown in jail. The security campaign swept up liberals and the young pro-democracy activists who spearheaded the 2011 popular that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Amnesty International has said that Halawa was “detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly.”

Originally published 9.47pm, 18 January. Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan.

Read: European Parliament passes resolution calling for immediate release of Ibrahim Halawa>

More: What is Law 140, and does it mean Ibrahim Halawa will stand trial in Ireland? >

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