2 years after Cairo crackdown, Irish teen no closer to fair trial

August 14, 2015

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

An Irish teenager arrested two years ago during the Egyptian military crackdown on a Cairo protest is still awaiting trial.

Ibrahim Halawa, from Dublin, was one of hundreds of people swept up and imprisoned after security forces broke up a protest at Rabaa al Adawiya square, Cairo on August 14-17th 2013, killing as many as 800 people. Ibrahim, who was 17 at the time, has been imprisoned in poor conditions ever since, and awaits a mass trial alongside 493 other people, including several other juveniles.

Ibrahim is being tried as an adult, in contravention of Egypt’s Child Law and international law. Research last year by human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting him, found that the Egyptian authorities illegally arrested nearly 200 juveniles in Cairo alone during the crackdown – including children as young as six.

Egypt’s system of mass trials has seen thousands of death sentences handed down to protestors, journalists and opposition activists since 2013, and has been condemned by the UN, the US and UK, and Egyptian rights groups. The trial of the 494, which was scheduled to begin in September 2014, has been repeatedly postponed – most recently on August 2nd. International law places strict limits on pre-trial detention, and the long-delayed proceedings have seen repeated violations of the defendants’ right to a fair trial.

Writing recently to his family, Ibrahim said he was regularly beaten and was locked in a crammed cell in Wadi Natrun prison, saying: “I am in a room where there is no shower, the window of the door is shut glued to the door, I don’t see the sun […] I wake up every morning to the voices of other prisoners screaming from the hitting and I can hear the beatings so loud.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“It is disgraceful that, a full two years after its brutal crackdown on protestors, the Egyptian government continues to drag out its mistreatment of prisoners like Ibrahim, who should never have been jailed in the first place. If Egypt is serious about justice and the rule of law, the authorities must call a halt to this mass trial and others, and free the many people like Ibrahim it is holding unjustly. Now more than ever, the Irish government and international community must call on Egypt to change course.”