herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Jailed Dublin teen gets first real contact with family in months

Lawyer Darragh Mackin, Ibrahim's sister Khadija and Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan in Egypt
Lawyer Darragh Mackin, Ibrahim's sister Khadija and Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan in Egypt

Imprisoned Dublin teen Ibrahim Halawa has been allowed to embrace a member of his family for the first time in months.

The 19-year-old has been imprisoned in Cairo since August 2013 - and today marks his 717th day behind bars.

His sister Khadija, one of his lawyers, and Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan met the teenager at Wadi el-Natrun prison yesterday.

"It was very emotional to watch him and his sister," Ms Boylan told the Herald from Cairo.

Contact

"It was the first physical contact he has had with any member of his family in nine months.

"He held her hand so tightly the entire time we were there," she added.

"Usually when the family manage to gain access to the prison they get just three minutes or so with Ibrahim and he is behind barriers during the visit," Ms Boylan added.

The trio met with Ibrahim in the governor's office in the prison and were granted a full hour with him.

"The plush surroundings were obviously quite different from the rest of the prison," Ms Boylan said.

"He said he gets frustrated waking up there listening to the sounds of other prisoners being beaten."

Ibrahim's visitors emerged from the prison very concerned about his health.

The youngster has a pre-existing heart condition which his family have said is worsening during his time in prison.

"His breathing was very laboured. We are calling on Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan to intervene and request that a doctor be allowed to visit him in prison," Ms Boylan said.

A spokesperson for Minister Flanagan said that he took Ibrahim's welfare while in detention "very seriously" and added that he had received "unprecedented" consular support.

Ibrahim - whose dad is Ireland's most senior Muslim cleric, Sheikh Hussein Halawa - also sent a message of thanks to his supporters in Ireland.

"He was adamant that the public pressure has kept him safe and improved his treatment in prison," Ms Boylan said.

Relief

It was a relief, she added, to know that campaigning on his behalf was not putting him in danger.

Ibrahim and some other 493 defendants attended a court date on Sunday, but the trial has been pushed back to October 4.

It is the eighth time proceedings have been delayed.

Ms Boylan, Ibrahim's family and his Irish lawyer Darragh Mackin were forced to wait outside during proceedings.

He was arrested during the Al Fateh Mosque siege two summers ago alongside his sisters, who were later released.

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