Europe

Irish official visits Halawa siblings in Egypt

Ibrihim Halawa with sisters Fatima, Omaima and Somaia
Image caption Ibrihim, Fatima, Omaima and Somaia Halawa were caught up in the mosque siege

Four Irish citizens being held by authorities in Egypt have been visited by a consular official from the Irish Embassy.

Four members of the Halawa family were in Cairo's barricaded al-Fath mosque when it was cleared by security forces on Saturday.

Joe Costello, minister of state at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, said they had not been charged.

He said they were well and in good spirits.

The three young women and teenage boy are children of Hussein Halawa, the imam at Ireland's largest mosque in Dublin.

"I'm glad that we've been able to report that they are in good spirits," Mr Costello said.

"Officials are in contact with the family here in Dublin and relayed this information to them immediately.

"Our primary concern has always been for the welfare of the four siblings, and I'm glad that we've managed to establish access to them.

"While this information will come as a relief to their family, obviously they are still in detention, and unfortunately the situation in relation to legal proceedings against them is unclear at present."

He added: "No charges have been preferred at this time."

Stand-off

The four siblings - Omaima Halawa, 20, her two sisters Fatima, 22, Somaia, 27, and their 17-year-old brother Ibrihim - all live in Dublin but had gone to Egypt on holiday with their mother, Amina Mostafa.

The Halawas were among hundreds of people who sheltered in the al-Fath mosque on Friday night, during a stand-off between security forces and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood is calling for the reinstatement of President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the army last month.

Morsi supporters have staged several protests, including barricading themselves into the al-Fath mosque.

The mosque was being used as a makeshift morgue and treatment clinic for injured protesters. It was the scene of a lengthy siege on Saturday, as security forces fired tear gas into the building, and exchanged fire with at least one gunman.

Many people who were in the mosque were arrested, including members of the Halawa family.

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