Irish juvenile reveals fresh abuses in Egyptian prison

September 2, 2016

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

A student from Dublin has said he is suffering fresh abuses in prison in Egypt, where he faces a potential death sentence for attending a protest.

Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish citizen, was 17 when he was arrested in August 2013 in the wake of protests in Cairo. He has been held ever since in poor conditions, and faces a mass trial alongside 493 other people. Ibrahim – who is being tried as an adult despite having been a juvenile at the time of his arrest – faces a potential death sentence.

In a letter published today by the Guardian, Ibrahim writes that he has suffered beatings and racist abuse from prison guards for being Irish. He says that prisoners, held in cramped conditions, are forced to watch each other being tortured, and that they have also been stripped and made to endure prison guards “jump[ing] on our backs, from one prisoner to the next.” Ibrahim adds that he “miss[es] everything about Ireland” and is “sad about not seeing my dad, who is old and ill, and my beautiful kind sisters.”

Egypt’s system of mass trials since 2013 has seen thousands of protestors, journalists and opposition activists imprisoned, and has been condemned by governments including the US and the UK. The mass trial involving Ibrahim has been repeatedly postponed since 2013, and at the most recent hearing, the judge is understood to have postponed proceedings again until 2 October 2016.

In his letter, Ibrahim writes that the mass trial “has not moved one step forward” since his arrest, adding that in hearings “I can’t speak to the judge; he can’t ask me any questions. I can’t speak to my lawyer; my lawyer can’t speak to me. My family are constantly refused entry to the court.”

The Irish Government has supported calls for Ibrahim’s release, saying in June this year that he should be “freed by the Egyptian authorities so that he can return to his family and his studies in Ireland as soon as possible.”

In a report published last month, a group of British legal experts, the Bar Human Rights Committee, called for Ibrahim’s “immediate transfer” home to Ireland, saying that Egypt’s treatment of him “constitutes a serious breach of international law.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim, said:

“It’s chilling to hear of the appalling abuses Ibrahim and other prisoners are suffering daily, while they await a mass trial which could see them sentenced to death next month. Ibrahim was a juvenile when he was arrested, and he has been through a horrifying, illegal ordeal which must end now. His heartbreaking words about how much he misses his family and his home country must not fall on deaf ears – Egypt must release him without delay, along with the hundreds of prisoners who were rounded up with him.”


Notes to editors

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

2. Ibrahim’s letter can be seen at the Guardian website, here.

3. The Irish government’s comments in June can be seen here.

4. Further detail on Ibrahim’s case is available at the Reprieve website, here.