Muslim held in Egyptian jail ‘top priority’ for Ireland

The freedom of an Irish Muslim held in a Cairo jail since his arrest in 2013 remains a “top priority” for the Irish government, an official said Friday.

Ibrahim Halawa, is one of 493 inmates facing a mass trial connected to events during the infamous al-Fath mosque siege in Ramses square, in August 2013.

Halawa was only 17 when he was arrested along with his three elder sisters at the mosque.

The Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators had been holed up in the building when chased by armed military troops in a bid to disperse crowds who gathered at city squares in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Bloody clashes occurred when security forces moved in to round up protesters.

Halawa’s three sisters were subsequently released but he remains in custody. His trial has been postponed for 17 times and the next one scheduled for Jan. 17.

A spokesman for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs told Anadolu Agency the Irish government continues to do everything possible to secure Halawa’s release.

“He has spent three and a half years in prison in Cairo without having been convicted of any wrongdoing,” the official said in a statement.

The Irish government has asked Egypt’s president to use his discretionary powers under that country’s Constitution to order Ibrahim’s release and return to Ireland.

Halawa’s father, Hussein Halawa, is the imam of the largest mosque in Ireland.

He spoke to Anadolu Agency last year and urged the Irish government to use more aggressive diplomatic tactics to secure his son’s release.

“Ibrahim is Irish,” he said.

“He was born in Dublin, here. The government of Egypt, they kidnapped [him] from the mosque,” he said. “My government”, he said while placing his hand on his chest in reference to Ireland, “They do something, but they’re not doing everything.”

The advocacy group Reprieve said Halawa has been beaten in detention, kept in solitary confinement and one hand is permanently disfigured after he was denied medical treatment for a gunshot wound.

The Irish Foreign Ministry spokesman said Halawa’s case is being closely monitored.

“The next court hearing in Ibrahim Halawa’s case is scheduled for 17 January. The Irish Government, through its Embassy in Cairo, will be represented at the hearing to observe proceedings, as it has been at all hearings in the case to date.”

Egypt has been roiled by turmoil since the military deposed and imprisoned Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president, in a bloody coup in mid-2013.

Since then, Egypt’s post-coup authorities have launched a relentless crackdown on dissent, killing hundreds and jailing thousands for committing alleged “acts of violence”.