Ibrahim Halawa, 19, entered a hunger strike for the second time in his nearly two-year-long detention last Thursday, despite worsening health conditions. (Photo Public Domain)
Irish republican leader Gerry Adams has written directly to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, calling for the release of imprisoned Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa.
Halawa, 19, entered a hunger strike for the second time in his nearly two-year-long detention last Thursday, despite worsening health conditions.
Adams, who is a prominent Irish republican figure and leader of the Sinn Fein party, asked President Al-Sisi to intervene directly in the case of Halawa.
“There is widespread concern in Ireland at his continued detention and the constant delays in his trial. I ask you to intervene on humanitarian grounds to ensure Ibrahim’s speedy release and return to his family in Ireland,” Adams said.
Halawa was arrested in August 2013 during protests in support of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi at the Al- Fateh Mosque in the Ramses area of Cairo. He has been detained alongside 493 other defendants, who face mass trial on charges of murder and attempted murder for their alleged role in violence at the protests.
There was an exchange of fire between security forces and the outer areas of the mosque, on which basis security forces mass arrested protesters. During the protest in which at least 97 people died, Halawa was taking refuge with his three sisters in Al-Fateh mosque.
However, Amnesty International holds that the research they undertook proves it would be impossible that the protesters could have fired at security forces, as they were locked inside an inner part of the mosque. Amnesty International claim that, of the over 100 witnesses due to be called in the trial, the majority are police officers or government officials.
“His family are deeply worried for Ibrahim’s mental well being after his case was adjourned earlier this month for the seventh time,” Adams said. “I am sure you can appreciate that Ibrahim’s family are deeply concerned for him.”
Last Friday, the Irish Foreign Ministry said it is seeking to acquire a presidential pardon for Halawa, but only after the trial ends, with Prime Minster Enda Kenny saying: “I cannot interfere in the Egyptian legal system.”
In April, Irish Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan took up Halawa’s case with Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry on the sidelines of a United Nations conference in New York. The meeting between the two ministers came a day after the young Irishman was refused bail, with Flanagan expressing his “disappointment” over the refusal to Shoukry.
Halawa has been designated a ‘prisoner of conscience’ by Amnesty International, who warns that, if convicted, he could face the death penalty. They have also highlighted the worrying mental effects on the 19-year-old, who is believed to be held in the same area as prisoners sentenced to death in Tora prison. His family have called on the Irish government to put more pressure on Egyptian authorities.