Concern grows for Irish citizens detained in Egypt

Ibrihim, Fatima, Omaima and Somaia Halawa were caught up in the mosque siege Ibrihim, Fatima, Omaima and Somaia Halawa were caught up in the mosque siege

Concern about the fate of four Irish citizens detained in Egypt is growing after reports from Cairo suggest they will face criminal charges.

Soumaya Halawa, 27, her sisters Fatima, 23, Omaima, 21 and brother Ibrihim, 17, were arrested last weekend.

They are being investigated for charges that include attempted murder, possession of firearms and membership of a militant group.

The four were arrested after security forces stormed a mosque in Cairo.

Most of those in the mosque had been protesting against the coup that removed the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood government led by President Mohammed Morsi.

However, it has been reported from Cairo that the Halawas told the prosecutor that they had been in the area and sought refuge after violence broke out.

The Republic's junior minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Joe Costello, said an Irish diplomat has been in contact with the siblings but the "situation in relation to legal proceedings against them is unclear at present".

'Politically motivated'

The family in Ireland said they were upset about the reported developments in Egypt.

Their father, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, the imam at Ireland's biggest mosque in Dublin, said the accusations against his children and five other citizens of Turkey, Syria and Canada were politically motivated.

"My children are innocent in all this. And we are all worried that they are in great danger," he said.

His daughter, Nosayba Halawa, who is also in Dublin, said the charges against her siblings "are ridiculous".

She said: "They would need to be superman or superwoman to do all the things they are accused of.

"And anyone who knows my sisters knows that they would faint at the sight of blood, so how could they be involved in any violence?"

She also said her mother, who is still in Egypt, had not been able to see her children and she was very concerned about them.

Ibrahim Halawa was due to learn this week what university or college course he would be attending in the autumn but his sister, Nosayba, said the letter informing him was in a pile of more than 100 letters that would remain unopened until the family had more information about what will happen to the siblings.

It is reported the four have been detained for 15 more days, but the family back in Ireland said they expected that period to be further extended.

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