Peter Greste’s young Irish cellmate “very depressed”, say family
February 4, 2015
The family of an Irish teenager held in the same prison cell as Peter Greste have spoken of their anguish at his potential death sentence.
Ibrahim Halawa, from Dublin, was 17 and on holiday in August 2013 when he was caught up in Egypt’s sweeping military crackdown on protests. Now 19, he is in prison in Cairo awaiting trial as an adult alongside 493 other prisoners, on largely identical charges. Mr Halawa and his 493 co-defendants face execution if convicted.
Mr Halawa had been sharing a cell in Tora prison with Mr Greste before the Al Jazeera journalist was freed on Monday. He has detailed repeated abuse during his 2-year detention; in one letter, he described how armed prison guards raided his cell, saying “we were stripped naked one by one” and sexually assaulted, before officers stood on their backs and beat them with sticks. One officer, he said “picked up a metal chain and whipped my shoulder, taking my back with it.”
Mr Halawa is due to appear in court this Sunday (8th), but previous hearings in the mass trial have been postponed amid chaotic scenes in the courtroom. At one hearing late last year, the 494 defendants could not fit into the makeshift courthouse, and were reportedly beaten by prison guards when they complained.
Nosayba Halawa, Mr Halawa’s sister, visited him on Monday and told The Times: “We tried to put in a deportation request like Peter [Greste] three months ago and nothing has happened. My brother is going downhill fast. He is very depressed, he barely speaks to his cellmates.”
Mr Halawa has reported being told by prison guards that he will be executed, and that his “European passport” will not save him.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Halawa, said: “Peter Greste’s release is a welcome move, but it speaks volumes about Egypt’s commitment to justice that the teenager who shared his cell is being tried as an adult alongside 493 people – all facing potential death sentences. If the Egyptian authorities are serious about human rights and due process, they must stop these farcical ‘mass trials’, and free Ibrahim Halawa and the many hundreds like him. The international community must keep up the pressure until this wave of repression is called to a halt.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160 / alice [DOT] gillham [AT] reprieve [DOT] org [DOT] uk
2. A hearing for the 494 defendants, including Mr Halawa, is expected to take place this Sunday (8th) at the Tora prison complex in Cairo.
3. Further background on Ibrahim Halawa’s case can be found here.