A delegation of politicians from Ireland arrived in Cairo on Monday in hopes of securing the release of 21-year-old Irish-Egyptian prisoner Ibrahim Halawa, who has spent more than three years in detention without trial in Egypt.
Halawa, who was arrested for protesting in support of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood, has had his trial postponed 17 times. The Irish-Egyptian national, who is the son of Ireland’s most senior Muslim cleric, is on his third hunger strike since he was incarcerated in August 2013, when he was still a minor.
According to Ireland’s state-owned RTÉ news service, a multi-party group of eight assembly delegates will be visiting Egypt for five days starting on Monday, during which time they plan to meet with Halawa in Wadi al-Natrun Prison on Tuesday. The delegation is also expected raise Halawa’s case in meetings with Egyptian MPs and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Halawa’s continued detention has strained diplomatic relations between Dublin and Cairo. However, RTÉ reported that the Egyptian government had “invited the delegation, as it wants to normalize relations with Ireland.”
RTÉ added that, alongside the issue of Halawa’s detention, the Irish parliamentarians “will meet their Egyptian counterparts to discuss parliamentary relations and build stronger cooperation in areas such as agriculture, trade, and tourism.”
Halawa is standing trial along with over 400 other defendants, and may be facing the death penalty in light of the charges leveled against him, which include rioting and sabotage. However, on the Facebook group Free Ibrahim Halawa, his lawyer and family have denied all these charges, as well as any link between Halawa and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Halawa was arrested on August 17, 2013 with his three elder sisters Somaia, Fatima and Omaima in Al-Fath Mosque by central Cairo’s Ramses Square, during large street protests and violent clashes in support of the ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and his government.
Halawa has alleged that security forces shot him in the hand while arresting him, a claim that the Egyptian government has denied.
After being detained for three months in a women’s prison, the three Halawa sisters were released. However, Ibrahim remains jailed as authorities have accused him of involvement in the deaths of civilians and security troops.
International rights organizations Amnesty International and Reprieve have called for the release of Halawa, along with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the European Parliament, and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to investigations conducted by Amnesty International, Halawa is “a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly.”