Europe

Judge to consider Halawa release on medical grounds

Ibrahim Halawa
Image caption Ibrahim Halawa was 17 when he was imprisoned in Egypt

An Egyptian judge has said he will consider a request to release an Irish prisoner on medical grounds after he became ill while on hunger strike.

Ibrahim Halawa, a 21-year-old from Dublin, has been refusing food in protest against being held as a remand prisoner for three-and-a-half years.

His family claim he collapsed in jail on Sunday due to low blood sugar.

His trial has been adjourned 21 times, but the Irish government welcomed "progress" during Wednesday's hearing.

"Following a frustrating and unacceptably long delay, there is now a clear sense that a trial is under way," said Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan.

Presidential pardon

Irish diplomats were in the court on Wednesday as 11 witnesses testified before the judge, according to Mr Flanagan.

The foreign minister added that Mr Halawa's lawyers had requested his release on medical grounds and "the judge undertook to consider that application".

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has already said he will offer a pardon to Mr Halawa once his trial is over.

The Dubliner was 17 when he was arrested with three of his sisters during a siege at the Al-Fath mosque in Cairo in August 2013.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ibrahim Halawa was arrested along with his sisters Fatima, Omaima and Somaia

The family were on a summer holiday in their parents' homeland when they were caught up in protests by supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

The women were allowed to return to Dublin after three months, but their younger brother has spent more than three years in prison awaiting trial.

Wheelchair

During that time, he has staged intermittent hunger strikes, but his family said his health has seriously deteriorated in recent weeks.

Last month, they said he had become so weak that prison staff brought him to a family visit in a wheelchair.

When he collapsed on Sunday, he was taken to a clinic at Wadi al Natrum prison but then refused glucose treatment when he regained consciousness, according to his family.

Mr Flanagan said the Irish government took the "unprecedented step of deploying a doctor to Egypt" to meet Mr Halawa last week.

"He recommended that Ibrahim Halawa be released to facilitate further specialist medical assessments.

"Following that report, the taoiseach [Irish prime minister] again wrote to President El Sisi, again appealing for Ibrahim Halawa's release, stressing the Irish government's humanitarian and medical concerns.

Mr Flanagan added that Irish diplomats have been in court for every day of the case and the Irish Ambassador to Egypt, Damien Cole, has made an "unprecedented number of consular visits" to the prisoner.

"The government will continue with its efforts to have Ibrahim Halawa returned to Ireland on humanitarian grounds without delay," the minister said.

Related Topics

More on this story