herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Flanagan accused of 'ignoring' plight of imprisoned teen Ibrahim Halawa

ibrahim halawa
ibrahim halawa

THE sister of an Irish teenager whose trial has been postponed for a fourth time in Egypt has hit out at the Government for "ignoring" his plight.

Dublin-born Ibrahim Halawa (19) faces charges of murder and attempted murder in a group trial alongside 493 others.

His sister Somaia told the Herald that her attempts to secure fresh meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan have repeatedly failed.

The family last met the minister during the summer.

"At a consular level, I am really appreciative of the hard work by the Minister Charlie Flanagan," she said.

"But it's so upsetting that I have been trying for two months to ask for a meeting. No matter how many times I say how urgent it is, he is not answering my calls.

"I really don't understand why I am being ignored. Why does he not have time for a meeting with us as a family?"

Somaia said the latest adjournment was "very upsetting, and very depressing for the family. It's just too much," she said.

Concerned

"I am disappointed to learn of the further delay today and concerned that the Egyptian authorities continue to consider Ibrahim's case as part of a group trial," Mr Flanagan said last night.

"I have personally raised the Government's concerns about this case with my Egyptian counterpart on a number of occasions," he added.

"Officials in Dublin and Cairo have been working actively on this case, and have been in ongoing and sustained contact with the Egyptian authorities and international partners since Ibrahim Halawa was initially imprisoned.

"My department will continue to take all appropriate action to ensure Ibrahim's welfare, and to seek a review of his case, his release and return to his family and his studies," he said.

Mr Flanagan said his department "will continue to provide all possible consular assistance to Ibrahim Halawa and his family".

A spokesman from the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Mr Flanagan had met with Ibrahim's family on July 31 last.

The spokesman added that senior officials at the department had been in touch with Ibrahim's family "on an almost daily basis" and that the Irish Ambassador to Egypt Isolde Moylan had met with Ibrahim 33 times.

Devastating

Executive director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O'Gorman said the latest postponement was "devastating".

"By any international standard of justice, this is absolutely unacceptable," he said.

The hearing had been due to take place yesterday morning in Tora prison, where Ibrahim previously shared a cell with recently freed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste.

However, the judge moved the trial date to March 29 to a "specially-adapted" courtroom outside the capital city, acknowledging the difficulty of fitting the 494 defendants into the room.

Ibrahim and 493 other people were arrested for their alleged violent role during protests on August 16 and 17, 2013.

It is understood that Ibrahim, who was aged 17 at the time of his arrest, had taken refuge in a mosque with his sisters when he was captured.

His three sisters, Somaia, Fatima, and Omaima, were held for a month before being released on bail, after which they were allowed to return to Dublin.

hnews@herald.ie

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