Egypt postpones 2-year mass trial once more, amid protests from lawyers

June 3, 2015

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

A mass trial of 494 protestors in Egypt, including an Irish teen facing the death penalty, has been postponed for the 8th time in nearly two years, nearing Egypt’s previously-accepted legal limits for pre-trial detention.

At a hearing today at Wadi Natrun – said to be one of Egypt’s worst prisons – the public prosecution had been expected to present its case, long delayed, against the 494, who were arrested and imprisoned in August 2013 as part of a widespread government crackdown on dissent. Instead, according to reports from the court, today’s hearing lasted 30 minutes, before being postponed to August 2nd. Delaying proceedings for the 8th time, the authorities reportedly claimed that some of the defendants had to ‘take exams’ that day for courses in prison, and could not attend.

The delay is reported to have drawn protests from defence lawyers in attendance, as it means that the defendants will have been awaiting trial for nearly two years – previously the maximum legal limit for pre-trial detention in Egypt, before a controversial presidential decree extended it indefinitely at the height of the crackdown in September 2013. 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.

Among the group is Ibrahim Halawa, a student from Dublin who is being tried as an adult, in contravention of Egypt’s Child Law and international law, alongside several other juveniles. Ibrahim was 17 and on holiday in Egypt when he was arrested. Now 19, he faces a death sentence if convicted, and has reported serious mistreatment throughout his two-year detention in Egypt, where police torture is common. The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, said earlier this year that he “want[s] to see Ibrahim back in Ireland with his family and completing his studies.”

The UK Government has told human rights organization Reprieve that it is “monitoring” Ibrahim’s case, and that it has “consistently raised the use of mass trials both publicly and in our private conversations with the Egyptian government.”

This latest postponement comes days after the release of Mohammed Soltan, a US citizen who was arrested in the same crackdown.

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

“Ibrahim Halawa, who was just 17 when arrested and brutally tortured in Egypt for the ‘crime’ of attending a peaceful protest, has now spent nearly two years in pre-trial detention. He is being tried alongside 493 people, a number of whom were, like Ibrahim, juveniles at the time of their arrests, in a trial that makes a mockery of justice. These frequent postponements are dragging out the agonising ordeal of the defendants and their families, and demonstrate the Egyptian authorities’ contempt for the rule of law. The international community must call on the Egyptian government to halt its brutal use of these mass trials and death sentences, and free Ibrahim and the many others like him.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact Reprieve’s press office: 44 (0) 207 553 8160 / alice.gillham [AT] reprieve.org.uk

2. Further background Ibrahim Halawa’s case can be found at the Reprieve website.