Irish student marks 3 years in Egyptian jail without trial
August 16, 2016
An Irish student who was arrested three years ago tomorrow (17th), during an Egyptian crackdown on protests, is still awaiting a mass trial alongside 493 other prisoners.
Ibrahim Halawa, from Dublin, was one of hundreds of people swept up and imprisoned on 17th August 2013 after security forces broke up protests at Rabaa al Adawiya square, Cairo. Ibrahim, who was 17 at the time, has been imprisoned in poor conditions ever since, and awaits a mass trial of 494 people, including several other juveniles. They face a potential death sentence.
Ibrahim is being tried in an adult court, in contravention of international law. The judge is understood to have recently postponed the trial until 2 October 2016 – and indicated that he now plans to consider video evidence for the first time. The video evidence has been available since the start of the proceedings 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.
Egypt’s system of mass trials has seen thousands of death sentences handed down to protestors, journalists and opposition activists since 2013, and has been condemned by the UN, the US and UK, and Egyptian rights groups. The trial of the 494, which was scheduled to begin in September 2014, has been postponed 14 times – most recently on 29 June.
Ibrahim has been held in dire conditions since his arrest and suffered abuse inside Wadi Natrun prison. In a letter, Ibrahim said “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. He has told Reprieve that some prisoners were being tied naked in a crucifix position in the prison’s halls, while others had been electrocuted, using pools of water to increase the pain.
Research by human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim, has found that the Egyptian authorities illegally arrested nearly 200 juveniles in Cairo alone during the 2013 crackdown – including children as young as six.
Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:
“It is absolutely scandalous that Ibrahim – who was arrested as a child for attending a protest – has now been held for three years without trial in some of the worst prison conditions imaginable. Ibrahim should never have been jailed in the first place. If Egypt is serious about justice and the rule of law, the authorities must call a halt to this mass trial and others, and free the many people like Ibrahim it is holding unjustly. Now more than ever, the Irish government and international community must call on Egypt to change course.”
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.
2. Further detail on Ibrahim’s case is available at the Reprieve website, here.