Cameron failed to raise Irish juvenile’s case with Sisi

December 8, 2015

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

The Prime Minister failed to raise with Egypt’s President Sisi the case of an Irish teenager facing the death penalty when the two leaders met last month, it’s emerged.

In a letter sent this week to the family of Dublin student Ibrahim Halawa, Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood admits that “Ibrahim’s case was not specifically raised by the Prime Minister with President Sisi during his visit.” Ibrahim’s family had written to David Cameron ahead of the Egyptian President’s first visit to the UK last month, asking him to raise the case with Mr Sisi. MPs also asked the government to intervene on Ibrahim’s case, and raised concerns about the timing of Mr Sisi’s visit amid widespread reports of torture in Egypt.

Ibrahim, who will turn 20 in prison on Sunday, has been held in a series of Egyptian prisons since being arrested at a protest in August 2013. Despite having been 17 – a juvenile – at the time, he is being tried as an adult in a controversial mass trial of 494 protestors, and faces the death penalty if convicted. The trial has been repeatedly postponed since 2013.

Ibrahim and the hundreds of others facing trial are understood to be held in extremely poor conditions in Wadi Natrun prison. Ibrahim has recently told his family and human rights organization Reprieve that ‘experimental’ torture techniques, including electrocution and ‘crucifixions’, are under way.

A recent report by Reprieve revealed that the Egyptian government has sentenced nearly 600 people to death in the last year, with the vast majority of death sentences handed down in relation to political protest.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “It is appalling that Ibrahim Halawa, who was a juvenile when he was arrested, is about to spend a third birthday in prison. Ibrahim has suffered a horrifying ordeal at the hands of the Egyptian authorities, and his Kafkaesque mass trial offers no prospect of justice. It is deeply disappointing that David Cameron did not take the recent opportunity to raise his case with President Sisi, in spite of calls to do so from Ibrahim’s family and MPs. The UK is a close ally of Egypt, and it must do more to ensure that Ibrahim is released and returned home to his family in Ireland. The government must also call for justice for the others who are detained with him in life-threatening conditions.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London press office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.

2. The Halawa family’s letter to Mr Cameron is available here, while the government’s reply is available on request.

3. Reprieve’s report on the death penalty in Egypt is available here.

4. Further details on torture in Wadi Natrun prison are available on request