To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the new efforts his department will make to secure the release of a person Ibrahim Halawa whose trial has been postponed for the nineteenth time; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
As I have said in this House on many occasions, this consular case continues to be a top priority for the Government and substantial resources and time are being devoted to it, by the Taoiseach, by me as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, by officials in my Department, by our Ambassador and his team in Cairo, and by the entire Irish diplomatic network.
The Government is doing everything it possibly can to ensure that the Egyptian authorities are in no doubt about our determination to see this young man returned to his home and his family in Ireland as soon as possible.
I was disappointed that the court case in which our citizen is a defendant has once again been delayed following the most recent hearing on 14 February, and I very clearly expressed my concern in a statement which I issued that day.
Ireland’s Ambassador to Egypt was present in the court for the hearing and reported to me on developments. The latest hearing was dominated by consideration by the judges of petitions from lawyers acting on behalf of some of the defendants. After hearing these, the judges decided that witnesses could not be called on this occasion because a number of defendants, who are also involved in other cases, were not present in the court.
Our Ambassador’s assessment is that, notwithstanding the latest adjournment, the new panel of judges in the case are determined to move the case forward. Hearings in December and January have seen witnesses called and cross-examined for the first time since the trial began. The Irish Government has been present at and has observed every hearing in the trial to date and will be present at all future hearings.
Between now and the next hearing date in March, it is envisaged that the Embassy team will conduct a further consular visit with our citizen in order to discuss with him directly any issues arising in relation to the case and his health and welfare.
Officials from my Department maintain ongoing contact with this man’s family and his Egyptian and Irish-based legal teams and they have been in contact with the family again following the latest hearing in the case.
The reality is that it is the Egyptian authorities that are detaining this citizen, and only the Egyptian authorities can make the decision to return him to Ireland.
The Taoiseach has been in contact directly and personally with Egyptian President el-Sisi on numerous occasions now calling on him to exercise his powers under Egyptian law to resolve this case and return our citizen to Ireland.
For my part, I have availed of every appropriate opportunity to raise this case with my Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and I can assure the House that I will continue to do so.
I and my colleagues in Government and our officials will continue to do everything possible and appropriate to apply pressure on Cairo on this young man’s behalf both directly and through and with EU and international partners.