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'Ibrahim is a young, funny Dublin man but begrudgers believe being Irish is qualified by skin colour, name and religion'

After three years and 14 trial delays, it’s time for the government to intervene fully, writes MEP Lynn Boylan.

Lynn Boylan

ON WEDNESDAY 29 June, everyone, not least Ibrahim Halawa, was convinced that his mass trial was going to conclude after 13 postponements and almost three years in custody.

We had good assurances from many sources, including the judge, that this time would be different. Instead we once again cruelly learned the lesson that in Sisi’s Egypt, nothing can be taken for granted. The trial was postponed.

We learned that the judge decided to release two defendants for no reason. We also learned, more worryingly, that three of the 493 defendants have died since the last hearing.

I don’t know what that news will have done to Ibrahim’s morale. I don’t know if I would have the mental strength to take disappointment after disappointment.

Begrudgers

What I do know is that Ibrahim is a young, funny Dublin man who does not deserve to have spent three years in a filthy Egyptian prison. I know this because I have met Ibrahim, unlike many of the begrudgers who seem to think that being fully accepted as Irish is qualified by the colour of your skin, your name or your religion.

22329269902_0d5671bc79_o-2 Lynn with Ibrahim's family

The same begrudgers who have a problem with Dublin-born Ibrahim’s dual citizenship, which is not a choice but automatically given by Egyptian authorities, will happily cheer on footballers who play for Ireland under the ‘granny’ rule.

I am in no doubt that Ibrahim would be home in Ireland if he had a different name or religion.

The public outcry would be so loud that the Irish government would have no choice but to exert the maximum amount of political pressure on Egypt.

Lack of diplomatic pressure

Australia applied for the Presidential Decree that saw Al Jazeera journalist and former cell-mate of Ibrahim, Peter Greste, freed pre-sentencing in February 2015.

Instead the Irish government with their half a billion euro Egyptian beef deal opted for quiet diplomacy. They refused to apply for the decree, insisting that it could not be used pre-sentencing. Then, when called out on this lie, they declared that they would instead “wait for a verdict” before applying.

Ibrahim’s campaign team and lawyers resolutely opposed this strategy.

Now there is another four-month delay and no guarantee the 15th hearing, scheduled for 2 October will be any different.

Time for action

It is now an imperative that Minister Charlie Flanagan change tactics. The days of softly, softly quiet diplomacy are over. There is a window of opportunity between now and 2 October for maximum diplomatic pressure to be exerted on President Sisi.

An application for the Presidential Decree (Rule 140) must now be endorsed by both Minister Flanagan and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny. That application must then be followed up with phone calls to leave the Egyptian authorities in no doubt that we want our boy back home.

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The European Parliament and the UN have called for Ibrahim’s release, now it is time for the Irish government to do the same.

They need to make it clear to the Egyptian authorities that they will no longer tolerate being fed misinformation and lies about Ibrahim’s whereabouts and trial outcomes.

They need to do this because it is the right and just thing to do. They need to show that in the eyes of the Irish government, Ibrahim Halawa is as Irish as Enda Kenny.

Human rights

Until they take this forceful action, until they champion the rights of Ibrahim, all those Irish citizens who don’t fit into the stereotypical Irish profile will be right to question, am I a second class citizen?

Human rights are human rights: protesting, exercising your right to freedom of expression, access to a fair trial – these are all universal human rights of which Egypt are signatories. The Irish government must now defend those rights for Irishman Ibrahim.

Lynn Boylan is a Sinn Féin MEP.

Read: Ibrahim Halawa trial in Egypt delayed for 14th time in three years

Read: ‘We got support because my name was Peter, not Ibrahim.’

About the author:

Lynn Boylan

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