herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

EU Parliament unites to issue call for release of Ibrahim from prison

Sinn Fein MEPs Lynn Boylan, Liadh Ni Riada, Martina Anderson and Matt Carthy with Ibrahim’s sisters Somaia and Omaima Halawa
Sinn Fein MEPs Lynn Boylan, Liadh Ni Riada, Martina Anderson and Matt Carthy with Ibrahim’s sisters Somaia and Omaima Halawa
Dubliner Ibrahim Halawa

The sisters of imprisoned Dubliner Ibrahim Halawa welcomed a European Parliament resolution calling for his immediate and unconditional release from an Egyptian prison.

The resolution, drafted by Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan and supported by all Irish MEPs, was overwhelmingly passed by 566 votes to 11 yesterday.

Ibrahim (20) was jailed when aged just 17 in August 2013. He was arrested in a mosque in Egypt during a crackdown on street protests after the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seized power. He and 493 others have been told they face the death penalty if convicted in a mass trial.

His sisters Somaia and Nasayba travelled from Dublin for the European Parliament vote and were greeted by thunderous applause by MEPs in the parliament when introduced by Ms Boylan. Seven Irish MEPs spoke in favour of the resolution.

Somaia told the Herald that her family warmly welcomed the highly significant action of the parliament in making her brother's release a matter for the European Union as well as the Irish Government.

"The speeches by so many different MEPs in the parliament were amazing. Ibrahim is citizen of Ireland and the European Union," said Ms Halawa.

She said Irish TDs and senators in the Dail and Seanad should have been the first body of parliamentarians to pass such a resolution. It was "disquieting and upsetting" they had not done so and they should all come together now with motions in the Dail and Seanad, she said.

The huge support for the vote in the EU Parliament should result in the Irish Government making a stronger effort to win his release, she said.

Strike

Her brother had been on hunger strike for 55 days and "his health has been destroyed" by more than 800 days in prison, she said.

"He has lost a lot of weight and he has lost consciousness five times. He is only taking water and vitamins for the past 55 days," she said.

His trial was postponed for the tenth time this week and has been rescheduled for this Saturday.

Ms Boylan has called on EU bodies to monitor his trial.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said the Government is taking all appropriate action to secure the release of Mr Halawa.

The issue was raised by Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe and Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy in the Dail yesterday.

Minister Flanagan said the Government's "firm diplomatic approach" was in his best interests.

The minister said he has raised the case with EU High Commissioner Federica Mogherini and that the EU remained supportive of the Government's approach.

Mr Crowe said the Egyptian embassy was briefing TDs, senators and MEPs and he asked the minister if he was concerned at some of the information coming from these briefings, including an assertion that he had addressed the court during his hunger strike, which Mr Crowe said had not happened.

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