The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has called for the immediate return of Ibrahim Halawa to Ireland, and declared the decision of an Egyptian court to postpone the verdict of his trial until September 18th a “farce.” While in recent times the Irish government has shown themselves willing to take steps to ensure Ibrahim’s release, the USI has demanded Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney increase pressure on the Egyptian government to return Ibrahim before his physical and mental health deteriorate any further. The union has asserted that never again should a student live this nightmare.
Michael Kerrigan, President of the USI, said: “Halawa’s trial was delayed 28 times before his legal team even had a chance to defend him… Ibrahim should have been in college or an apprentice this year, furthering his dreams of becoming a pilot or an engineer. “Ibrahim is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly,” Kerrigan continued.
Ibrahim Halawa originates from Firhouse in Dublin. His arrest took place in August of 2013, when he was 17 years old, during protests in Cairo against the forced military removal of then-president Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now 21, his trial, along with 493 others, has been delayed on countless occasions, and he has been detained for four years. No evidence implicating Mr Halawa has been presented to the presiding Egyptian court.
On the evening of Monday 28th August, Taoiseach Varadkar spoke with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi about the plight of Mr Halawa. The Taoiseach highlighted his disappointment at further delay in the trial, but was assured Halawa’s case would be swiftly resolved once a verdict was arrived at. President Al-Sisi reiterated that his government was unable to interfere in the workings of a judicial case. A spokesperson for the Taoiseach commented that both parties hoped the case would be “brought to an early and satisfactory conclusion so that they could concentrate on broader and normal bilateral relations between Ireland and Egypt, in areas like trade, tourism and political cooperation, in the period ahead.”
Minister Harris commented that the Department of Health were readying themselves for Mr Halawa’s return, ensuring that the appropriate supports would be in place for the 21 year old. He asserted his frustration over the adjournment, saying: “This is very frustrating for Ibrahim Halawa and his family, who were expecting some definitive news today, and I fully share that sense of disappointment and frustration at yet another delay in this long-running case.”
Halawa’s sister Somaia has said of the latest development: “It is truly upsetting and heart-breaking to constantly keep having our expectations and hopes shattered into a million pieces. It is not just Ibrahim’s life that is being played around with, but also the entire family’s life.”
Darragh Mackin, Mr Halawa’s lawyer, has referred to this newest delay as “horrific”, and that the reasoning behind an adjournment at this late stage is unclear, but seems to be related to a security concern at the Egyptian prison where Mr Halawa is currently being held, which he asserted is unconnected to Mr Halawa’s case.