Irish student details fresh abuse in Egypt, as sentencing looms

June 2, 2016

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

An Irish student who faces the death penalty in an Egyptian mass trial has detailed fresh abuses in prison, amid signs that he could receive a death sentence later this month.

Ibrahim Halawa, from Dublin, was 17 and on holiday in Cairo in 2013 when he was arrested during the Egyptian army’s breakup of protests. He faces a death sentence if convicted in a mass trial, alongside 493 other defendants. The Egyptian authorities have refused to recognise Ibrahim’s juvenility, and are instead trying him and several other juveniles as adults, in contravention of international and Egyptian law.

The trial has been repeatedly postponed since 2013, and defendants have been unable to present evidence in their defence. Despite this, at the most recent hearing in the case, the judge is understood to have announced that the next hearing, on June 29th, will be the trial’s last, with both verdicts and sentences handed down.

Ibrahim has been held in reportedly dire conditions since his arrest, and a recent letter from him obtained by human rights organization Reprieve details the abuses he faces inside Wadi Natrun prison. In the letter, Ibrahim says “there are many ways I have been mistreated”, describing abuse that includes “beatings, solitary confinement, [being beaten with] the back of an AK47, guns pointed at my chest.” He added that the prison authorities often “torture another prisoner and they make you watch”, and that he has been put in solitary confinement as punishment for complaining about his mistreatment.

Torture is reported to be common in Egyptian prisons, and the latest allegations of abuse from Ibrahim come amid continued delays in the Egyptian investigation into the death of Italian student Giulio Regeni.

Ibrahim also gave details of his mass trial, saying that in the thirteen separate hearings that have taken place so far, he has never been permitted to speak to the judge or to speak in his own defence. He said: “It’s so loud, extremely packed. The judge comes in and we can’t see […] If you decide to not go to court, you’ll be beaten and brought by force.”

He added, “They said my trial will be fair yet it was held without my lawyer ever getting a chance to speak or see any evidence. […] I never imagined I would go to prison being innocent. It feels devastating.”

The British government has faced recent pressure from MPs to raise the case with the Egyptian authorities; the UK Foreign Affairs Committee has included Ibrahim on a list of cases it will include in an inquiry into the government’s human rights work, while last week, the Foreign Office faced Parliamentary questions on its handling of the case, and the wider human rights situation in Egypt.

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

“Ibrahim Halawa has been subjected to nearly three years of horrific abuse. Arrested for attending a protest when he was a juvenile, he’s been tortured and put through a sham trial with hundreds of others. It’s deeply worrying that the court is now suggesting that death sentences could soon be handed down. The international community must urgently call on the Egyptian authorities to release Ibrahim, and the other innocent protesters held alongside 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. More background on Ibrahim Halawa’s case can be found at the Reprieve website, while his letter can be seen here, or on request.

3. Details of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry are available here, while the most recent Parliamentary question on Mr Halawa’s case can be seen here.