Free Ibrahim

Ellen Desmond catches you up on latest regarding the arrest of Irish national, Ibrahim Halawa

On the 30th of March 2015 the trial of Ibrahim Halawa in Egypt was adjourned. The trial in question has been postponed until the 26th of April: this is the fifth time it has been postponed.

Ibrahim Halawa is an Irish citizen, who was charged (thus far without proper trial) of murder and of participating in a violent and illegal protest. Mr Halawa is now 19 years of age and has been imprisoned for over a year and a half; making him legally a minor when he was arrested. He was originally arrested along with three of his sisters who were subsequently released and have since been campaigning for his release. He, along with the hundreds is imprisoned with, may all face the death penalty for unwarranted allegations.

Amnesty International investigators who were on sight at the protest in question, say that all protesters were locked inside the innermost part of a mosque seeking refuge when violent attacks were carried out against them; and so Ibrahim and others are innocent of the crimes called against him. If this is true they were, in fact, the victims of violence carried out by police, not the perpetrators. Amnesty International define prisoners like Halawa as ‘Prisoners of Conscience.’ This is explained as “people who have been jailed because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, colour, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation or other status, provided that they have neither used nor advocated violence.”

Halawa’s case brings to light a number of issues. Firstly, that of Irish prejudices. The welfare of Ibrahim Halawa should be of utmost importance to the Irish Government because Halawa is an Irish national; a student from Dublin. The Egyptian Government have broken almost every international law and violated several of Halawa’s rights – yet, it appears that the Irish Government are being slow to act. Many ask if Halawa had a traditional Irish name or was a Catholic, would the Irish Government be moving more quickly to protect their citizen and fight for his freedom. The reasons behind Halawa’s involvement in protests in Egypt or his personal beliefs should become unimportant when rights are violated to this extent. In a recent statement from Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said Mr Halawa’s welfare remains “a primary concern.”  He said he supported a petition of release submitted by Mr Halawa’s lawyers and added that “I want to see Ibrahim back in Ireland with his family and completing his studies.” Claims that his department are doing all they can to work towards a “positive outcome” were brought into question by Halawa’s sisters in an interview with Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ’s Late Late Show, and through numerous protests and marches that have been held throughout Ireland in support and solidarity with Halawa.

Secondly, it brings to light the current state of human rights violations by the government in Egypt. Executive director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O’Gorman said “The detention conditions he is being reportedly held in amount to psychological torture given he would be surrounded by prisoners sentenced to death and waiting to be executed. Added to this is the psychological impact of being held in a cell which has housed prisoners who were subsequently executed.”

Media coverage of Halawa’s imprisonment has grown as the time slowly passes for the young student; and now we wait until the 26th of April to hear more. But that is no reason for the Irish Government to wait. They have been given time; and so should use it to fight for their citizen’s rights.