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

A request has been made, but the government hasn’t received a response.

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IBRAHIM HALAWA HAS now spent more than 800 days in an Egyptian prison after he was arrested during unrest following the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.

His trial has been postponed several times, with the next hearing due to take place in less than a month’s time.

The 19-year-old Irish citizen faces charges relating to his presence at a mosque in Cairo during violent clashes in the city.

His name is frequently in the headlines, ranging from updates on his condition in prison to calls for the government to do more in an attempt to free him.

Looking at the latter, one point of Egyptian law has been repeatedly cited as something of a quick fix for the case, allowing Halawa to be returned to Ireland. This is Law 140, a presidential decree.

This mechanism would allow him to return to Ireland before a final ruling has been made in his case, and is used in cases where a deportation or extradition would serve the “higher interest” of the Egyptian state.

His lawyers went over the Irish government’s head and raised this point with British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this month.

It was the same point independent TD Peter Mathews was trying to raise in the Dáil on Wednesday, before he was kicked out.

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Mathews said that “if the Taoiseach sends a presidential request by presidential decree to the president of Egypt… the man can be tried in his home country”.

Despite repeated calls like this for the government to use Law 140, a request was already made several months ago, directly by the Irish embassy in Cairo to Egypt’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

A similar request worked for Halawa’s cellmate, Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste. He was deported back to Australia under this law.

Britain Egypt Al Jazeera Journalists Peter Greste Source: Associated Press

The reporter was detained along with two colleagues, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and an Egyptian producer, Baher Mohamed, in December 2013 and charged with aiding the blacklisted Brotherhood movement.

The law was also applied to American citizen Mohamed Sultan. He was sentenced to 25 years after being charged with crimes ranging from organising a terrorist cell to inciting violence, then deported.

Senator Mark Daly highlighted the similarities between Halawa and Greste during a sitting of the Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this week. He stressed the importance of Halawa’s case as he is “the only one of our citizens abroad facing the death penalty”.

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“We persist in saying we can’t do anything until he’s finished his trial,” Daly said, despite the Australian government being able to take action and free Greste.

Law 140 clearly allows for the transfer to Ireland of Mr Halawa prior to a final judgement being given in his case.

He highlighted that it was raised in a report by Amal Clooney’s legal firm Doughty Street Chambers.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirms that it appealed to Egyptian authorities months ago for the release of Ibrahim Halawa under this law.

Although this step was taken, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan previously poured cold water on the suggestion that Halawa could be released before his trial concludes, calling it an “unrealistic” expectation.

The statement from the Department continued:

“The government has formally supported an application made by this citizen’s Egyptian legal team for his return to Ireland under the Law 140.”

It was further clarified that the application was submitted and is now with Egyptian authorities.

This was done by way of a formal diplomatic note sent by Ireland’s Embassy in Cairo to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 15 February 2015.
This specific matter has also been discussed by both the Taoiseach with President al-Sisi and on numerous occasions by Minister Flanagan with his Egyptian counterpart.

“Any decision to release this citizen will ultimately be taken by the Egyptian authorities.”

Quoting Flanagan, a separate statement read:

Our objectives in this case are twofold: Firstly to see this citizen released by the Egyptian authorities so that he can return to his family and his studies in Ireland, and secondly to provide consular support for his welfare while he remains in detention. The considered approach and sustained action that has been taken by the Government has been to further these objectives, and most importantly to avoid any action that could be counterproductive or detrimental to his best interests.

In his reply to Senator Daly earlier this week, Flanagan highlighted that any decision to release Halawa must be made by Egyptian authorities.

In Greste’s case this was Sisi’s cabinet and the country’s chief prosecutor.

The Minister added that the government isn’t sitting back and waiting for this to happen:

The Taoiseach has done more than lift the phone, the Taoiseach is actively and positively engaged, as am I.

Halawa’s trial has been postponed until 15 December. In early October it was delayed for the ninth time, as two of the 420 defendants at the mass trial were not present for medical reasons. The trial had already been postponed on previous occasions for similar reasons.

Additional reporting by AFP

Read: Taoiseach clarifies that Ibrahim Halawa isn’t facing murder charges >

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Nicky Ryan

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