To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the recent efforts being made by his department to secure the release of a person Ibrahim Halawa; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
I wish to assure the Deputy that securing this citizen’s return home to Ireland continues to be a top priority for the Government. In this regard, the Irish Government is continuing proactively to use all the means that are available to us to ensure that the Egyptian authorities at the highest levels fully understand the importance that the Irish Government attaches to the resolution of this case. The Government will continue to bring all of our influence to bear on this young man’s behalf through all effective channels.
The Government is giving its full support to an appeal for this citizen’s return to Ireland under Egyptian Law/Decree 140, and is applying maximum pressure on the Egyptian authorities in support of that initiative. Both the Taoiseach and I have been in direct contact with our Egyptian counterparts, President el-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, to underline the Irish Government’s serious concerns about this case in recent weeks.
The Taoiseach has raised the case directly and personally with Egyptian President el-Sisi on a number of occasions, including in face-to-face meetings, by phone and in writing. Following the adjournment of the trial in November, the Taoiseach again contacted the Egyptian President and urged him to return this citizen to Ireland without delay.
I am also in regular contact with my Egyptian counterpart, Minister Sameh Shoukry, making clear the Irish Government’s concerns and objectives in this case. I spoke with Minister Shoukry on Tuesday 1 November, again restating very clearly the Irish Government’s support for the Decree 140 application. I also met my counterpart in New York during the UN General Assembly in September, having also raised the case during a visit to Cairo in June.
As well as pursuing the Law/Decree 140 application, the Government also continues to explore each and every other possible avenue that might assist in securing this citizen’s return to Ireland. The Government, through our Embassy in Cairo, has been closely following the reports from Egypt about a new ‘youth amnesty scheme’.
In this context, on foot of a request from the citizen’s family, the Government has formally requested that the Egyptian Government consider him for immediate release.
The Taoiseach specifically made this request in a letter to the Egyptian President on 17 November. I raised this matter and request also with the Egyptian Ambassador in Dublin on the same day.
However, the details of this amnesty scheme remain very opaque and there are contradictory media reports about who might be eligible to avail of the scheme. Our Embassy in Cairo is seeking further information and clarification about how it operates.
In addition to engagement with the Egyptian authorities, the Government has also been engaging on an ongoing basis with other states who have had citizens in similar situations, with our European and international partners, and with the European Union. I have engaged extensively with the EU High Representative, Ms. Federica Mogherini, who – at my request - has personally raised the case with the Egyptian Government.
The Irish Government has been represented at every hearing in the case to date and our Ambassador was again in court to observe the proceedings at the most recent hearing, on 13 December.
Officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, both in Dublin and in Cairo, remain in ongoing contact with the citizen’s family.
His welfare while he remains in detention is also a high priority for the Government. Diplomats from the Irish embassy in Cairo make regular consular visits to him in prison to monitor his wellbeing and to address any issues that arise in relation to his treatment or conditions of detention. The most recent of these took place on 30 November 2016.