Sisi refuses Irish request to release tortured juvenile – reports

November 25, 2016

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

Egypt’s President Sisi has reportedly refused a request from Ireland’s leader to release “without delay” an Irish juvenile who faces the death penalty, amid fears that an ‘amnesty’ for young prisoners may exclude those detained in relation to protests.

Earlier this week, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Taoiseach Enda Kenny “wrote to President El-Sisi on 17 November to… call for the return of Ibrahim Halawa to Ireland without delay.” However, according to a Times report this morning, the Egyptian President has ‘rebuffed’ the request.

Ibrahim, from Dublin, was 17 when he was arrested in 2013 as the army broke up protests following Mr Sisi’s coming to power. He faces the death penalty in a mass trial of 494 people, including several other juveniles. The trial has been repeatedly postponed since 2013, during which time Ibrahim has reported regular torture. The proceedings are due to restart on December 13th.

The Irish request follows Egypt’s announcement last week of an ‘amnesty’ for juveniles and young people, who have been detained in large numbers since 2013. According to the Times, the Egyptian government has told Ireland that the scheme is available only to those who had already been convicted, and excludes Ibrahim.

However, this claim is at odds with Egyptian media reports, which suggest that the amnesty is intended in part for young people who have not yet been convicted – and that several young people have already been released who, like Ibrahim, were held in pre-trial detention. At the same time, some reports suggest that the amnesty may exclude young people who, like Ibrahim, are detained in relation to political protests.

The Irish Government also confirmed yesterday that they have requested a formal pardon for Ibrahim, under a law that saw the release last year of three Al Jazeera journalists. The journalists – Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy – once shared a cell with Ibrahim, and have called publicly for his release.

Research by international human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Halawa, has found that hundreds of children were detained in Cairo alone following protests in 2013.

The UK has told Reprieve that it is ‘monitoring’ Ibrahim’s case. Earlier this year, a Foreign Office human rights report noted strong concerns over the Sisi government’s use of torture, enforced disappearances and protest-related detentions.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“Ibrahim Halawa has been through an appalling ordeal, all for the so-called ‘crime’ of attending a protest – including torture, a deeply unfair mass trial, and the ongoing threat of a death sentence. It’s shocking that the Egyptian President appears unwilling to recognise that Ibrahim, and scores of other young people, should have been freed long ago. It’s now vital that Ireland, and other countries who are aware of Ibrahim’s case such as the UK, call strongly for Ibrahim’s release, so he can return to his family in Ireland.”

ENDS

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. President Sisi’s refusal of the request was reported in the Times today (Irish edition), here.

3. Egyptian media reports on the amnesty can be seen here, here and (Arabic) here.

4. Peter Greste called earlier this year for action to secure Ibrahim’s release – see here.

5. The Foreign Office report on Egypt, which includes Ibrahim’s case, can be seen here, while Reprieve’s correspondence with the Government is available on request.

6. For more background on Ibrahim Halawa’s case, see the Reprieve website