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'1,000 days have felt like 1,000 years' - Irish student still in Egyptian prison

Ibrahim Halawa’s trial is expected to take place at the end of June, nearly three years after he was imprisoned.

AN IRISH STUDENT facing the death penalty in Egypt wakes up this morning to his 1,000th day in prison – a time span he says has “felt like 1,000 years”.

Ibrahim Halawa has been imprisoned since August 2013, after the then-17-year-old was arrested during a siege of the Al-Fath mosque in Cairo.

“1,000 days with 1,000 different stories,” the 20-year-old Dublin man wrote in a letter from Tora prison, released by his sister Somaia Halawa to mark his 1,000 days in custody.

Sadly not the type of joy, laughter and smiles. But rather the type full of suffer(ing), pain, torture, tears, abuse, suicide and death.
1,000 days that have felt like 1,000 years. Not only for me but for hundreds behind bars. 1,000 days for something I believe people should be able to live in just as I do back home – in a free democratic country.

Somaia Halawa said her brother’s medical condition is worsening and he suffers from severe chest and back pain from sleeping on the ground for nearly three years.

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1,000 Days

“We never imagined he would stay more than one week, one month. It’s very hard to believe it’s been 1,000 days,” she told TheJournal.ie.

He was a child when he was put in prison. Now all of his friends are graduating from college while he is still in there.

The United Nations says Halawa has been subjected to torture and human rights abuses during the nearly three years he has spent in prison awaiting trial.

Last month, a letter was sent to the Egyptian government by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. Seen by TheJournal.ie, it claimed Halawa was shot in the hand and did not receive appropriate treatment.

It also said he is being held in a cell with 40 other men in a space designed for just 10 people.

Trial

Halawa’s trial has been adjourned 13 times. He is now expected to stand trial on 29 June on terrorism-related charges – along with 393 other defendants.

The Irish government has avoided public condemnation of the Egyptian prison system. It’s a very different approach to the one taken by the Australian government, which secured the release of its citizen, journalist Peter Greste, within 400 days of his imprisonment.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan last year told the Dáil the government could seek a presidential pardon for Halawa once his trial has concluded.

Somaia Halawa said she had a meeting with Foreign Affairs officials three weeks ago, during which she was assured the government will “take steps” once the trial is over.

Campaign

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, who has visited Halawa in prison, said a concerted campaign must take place to ensure his release.

“The situation over there is very, very worrying,” she told TheJournal.ie. “It’s coming into summer now and he is stuck in a tiny cell 24 hours a day with no air conditioning and no time outdoors.”

10660109_572694809553067_6299471853163780521_n Source: Free Ibrahim Halawa/Facebook

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin also called on the government to take “all necessary steps” to ensure Ibrahim’s return to Ireland.

“It is simply a scandal that he is not safe and at home in Ireland,” she said.

In a statement yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it is “continuing to pursue every constructive avenue” to secure Halawa’s release, while “avoiding any action that could be counterproductive or detrimental to (his) best interests”.

All actions taken in this case are considered in the context of the government’s clear strategy, which is focused on two core objectives.
First, to see Ibrahim released by the Egyptian authorities so that he can return to his family and his studies in Ireland as soon as possible, and, second, to provide every possible consular support for his welfare while he remains in detention.

Additional reporting by Michael Sheils McNamee

Read: Ireland is not stepping on Egypt’s toes in bid to free Halawa

Read: Egypt government rejects UN mistreatment claim in Halawa case

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