Egypt lobbies MEPs in defence of plans to execute Irish juvenile, as mass trial postponed again
December 15, 2015
The government of Egypt is attempting to prevent the European Parliament from taking action to support Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish student who faces the death penalty for attending a 2013 protest.
MEPs are due to vote on Thursday on a resolution which is expected to call on Egypt to release Ibrahim, who was 17 when he was arrested during the breakup of protests. In a document sent to MEPs this week, the Egyptian government makes a number of false claims about Ibrahim’s case, in an apparent attempt to halt the vote. These include the suggestion that Ibrahim, now 20, may not have been a juvenile at the time of his arrest, in spite of a passport confirming his age; that he has been able to speak in court, when he has never had the opportunity to do so; and that he has not been subjected to physical abuse.
The document fails to address recent reports of widespread torture in Ibrahim’s prison, gathered by Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim – including that he and others have been beaten with bars designed to leave no mark.
The move comes as Ibrahim’s trial, involving 494 people, was postponed today for the 11th time in two years. The prisoners face the death penalty if convicted on largely identical charges, which are repeated in the Egyptian document. Research by Reprieve and other rights groups has found that the charges against Ibrahim lack any material evidence to support them.
The trial has been repeatedly postponed since it began over two years ago, amid concerns that it does not meet international fair trial standards. A series of chaotic hearings have seen the prisoners held in cages, where they are unable to see or hear the proceedings, while defence lawyers have often been prevented from taking part.
The Sisi government’s use of mass trials to hand down hundreds of death sentences to political protestors, journalists and others has provoked condemnation from the UN, the EU, and governments that are close to Egypt, including the US and the UK. Research by Reprieve has found that the use of the death penalty has surged in Egypt since the suppression of protests began, with some 600 death sentences handed down in the last year alone.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:
“This mass trial is an utter disgrace. It’s clear that the Egyptian authorities have no interest in a just outcome, and every intention of prolonging the torture of the hundreds of prisoners who were swept up at protests nearly three years ago. What’s all the more shocking is that the Egyptian government is now peddling lies in order to stop MEPs from helping Ibrahim Halawa, a European citizen. Egypt’s allies in Europe and beyond must tell it that enough is enough – these bogus court proceedings must be disbanded, and Ibrahim and hundreds of others must be released.”
Notes to editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London 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 8064.1.
2. Reprieve’s report on Egypt’s use of the death penalty can be read here.