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Monday 5 December 2016

Halawa lawyer Clooney snubbed by committee

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, acting for Ibrahim Halawa has been denied an audience
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, acting for Ibrahim Halawa has been denied an audience
Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa is being held in Egypt

The Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee has voted not to invite lawyers for imprisoned Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa to a public hearing.

The surprise vote came after a report co-written by the law practice of Amal Clooney was critical of the Government's efforts to secure his release from custody in Egypt.

The high-profile human rights lawyer is the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney. Her practice, Doughty Street Chambers, is one of three sets of lawyers representing the Dublin teen, and had requested an audience with the committee.

Mr Halawa was arrested in Cairo two years ago while protesting against the coup which toppled President Mohamed Morsi. Egyptian authorities have linked the 19-year-old to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a banned in Egypt.

The Halawa family denies the link.

A motion by Fianna Fail senator Mark Daly for the committee to hear public testimony from Doughty Street Chambers was defeated following opposition from Fine Gael and Labour.

The vote was called after several members of the committee said they would rather such a meeting took place in private.

A report last month by Doughty Street Chambers and Gilbert & Tobin Lawyers claimed the Government could seek Halawa's repatriation under a law used to grant the release of Australian journalist Peter Greste.

The journalist was deported from Egypt earlier this year under what is known as Law 140.

This allows for prisoners to be returned to their home country to be tried or serve out their sentence, depending on the circumstances.

Criminal

However, the Irish Government has maintained Law 140 cannot be applied to Mr Halawa until the criminal proceedings against him are concluded, citing advice from a former prosecutor general in Egypt.

But the report maintains Law 140 can be applied in Halawa's case and said the Government's position is "untenable".

"The plain terms of Law 140 make it applicable to both criminals and either suspects or accused," it said.

Senator Daly said he was disappointed the legal team would not be heard from in public.

"If there is criticism, let us hear it in public. My concern is that members of the Government do not want to hear criticism of the Department of Foreign Affairs on what they should and shouldn't be doing," he said.

Following the vote, committee chairman Pat Breen said he would prefer "an informal meeting with the legal team".

"They have requested a meeting with us. I think we should accede to that," he said.

Labour TD Eric Byrne claimed Mr Halawa's situation was being used "as a political football".

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