Ibrahim Halawa: Case of Dublin teen held in Egypt adjourned again

By Vincent Kearney
BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

image copyrightHalawa family picture
image captionIbrahim Halawa was 17 when he was arrested during a siege on the Al-Fath mosque in Cairo in 2013

The Irish government has expressed concern after the trial of a Dublin teenager held in prison without trial Egypt was adjourned for the 14th time.

Ibrahim Halawa could face a death penalty with nearly 500 others over anti-government protests in 2013.

In April, the BBC revealed the Egyptian government had rejected allegations by the United Nations about his treatment.

His family said they had been told a number of time that a court would pass judgement on his case on Wednesday.

Mr Halawa, the son of Ireland's most senior Muslim cleric, has been held for more than two-and-a-half years since his arrest in Cairo.

In a statement, his family said they were told on Wednesday that judges now plan to reopen the case and to reassess video evidence.

image captionCampaigns have been ongoing for Ibrahim Halawa's release

It has been adjourned until 2 October.

"This decision comes as a surprise to our family, and the Irish government, in circumstances where we all understood the proceedings would come to a conclusion today," they said.

"To say we are devastated by today's outcome is an understatement."

The Irish government was represented at the court hearing and has expressed "deep disappointment and concern" at the latest development.

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he shared the Halawa family's sense of frustration.

"I will be conveying my concerns about this delay directly to the Egyptian government," he said.

"I will be seeking more information of the review of technical evidence ordered by the court and its likely impact on this trial.

image captionThe family say were on holiday at the time and sought refuge in the mosque to escape the violence outside

"Yesterday I met Ibrahim's father and sister and reassured them of my own and the government's continued commitment to achieving our two objectives: to secure Ibrahim's return to Ireland as soon as possible and to ensure his welfare during his detention."

Mr Flanagan added that the case is one of his "key" priorities.

The minister revealed that he met the Egyptian foreign affairs minister in Cairo on 16 June to underline the Irish government's concerns about the case.

Lawyers for the family said they plan to re-apply for Mr Halawa to be released under the presidential decree, which would mean he would be deported back to the Republic of Ireland.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin said he will meet with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs in the coming days "to consult on the proposed way forward."

image captionSomaia Halawa says her family will be meeting with the Irish government in the coming days to discuss the latest set back and the "proposed way forward"

Mr Halawa was 17 at the time of his arrest after Egyptian security forces ended a siege at the Al-Fath mosque in August 2013.

Three of his sisters were also arrested, but were later released on bail.

The family said they were on holiday at the time and had sought refuge in the mosque to escape the violence outside.

They have denied claims that Mr Halawa is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest and largest Islamist organisation.

The Eyptian government has declared it a terrorist group, a claim it rejects.

Mr Halawa and 492 others have been charged with murder and a range of other serious offences.

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