Council supports detainee in Egypt

by Gazette Reporter

COUNCILLORS in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown unanimously agreed a motion ths week to contact Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to exert pressure on the Egyptian government to release detained teenager Ibrahim Halawa, son of Hussein Halawa, Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh.
Cathaoirleach Marie Baker (FG) suspended standing orders to discuss the plight of Halawa.
Sisters of the imprisoned man, Somaia and Omaima, were present in the council chamber.
Three of the Halawa sisters were also imprisoned in Cairo last year during a protest of supporters of ousted Muslim leader Mohamed Morsi.
While the sisters were subsequently released after nearly four months, their brother Ibrahim remains in custody 11 months on.
The motion, put forward by Cllr Michael Merrigan (Ind), called for the council to join in seeking the immediate release of Halawa, the 18-year-old Irish citizen, held without trial in Egypt and for his early return to Ireland.
It also wanted a copy of the motion to be sent to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, His Excellency Sherif Elkhol.
As leader of the Independents’ group, Cllr Victor Boyhan (Ind), said: “Ibrahim Halawa has been detained in Cairo over the last 325 days.
“Some members of his family are here.
“A number of people from the mosque in Clonskeagh are honing in on the deliberations of our meeting and watching with keen interest.”
He went on to say: “He was arrested and detained by the military government in Egypt and to date no formal charges have been served on him.
“The teenager is expected to appear before one of Egypt’s most notorious mass trials on July 16.
“We should stand in solidarity with his community…
“I raise this matter on the basis of justice and humanity.”
Before his detention Halawa was studying for his Leaving Certificate in Firhouse. He was born in Ireland and his family have been living in Ireland for 20 years.
Cllr Richard Humphreys (Lab) stressed the humanitarian basis for the motion.
He said: “We’re not here to pass judgment on the pros and cons of a foreign system.”
Cllr Deirdre Donnelly (Ind) said: “I am distressed that an Irish citizen, who was a minor at the time, was detained in an area of conflict for no reason.”
Due to the proximity of Halawa’s trial date, Cllr Hugh Lewis said: “There is a massive urgency with this.
“July 16 is only around the corner.”
Somaia Halawa, who was in prison in Cairo last year told The Gazette of her response to the council’s motion.
She said: “I really can’t describe how happy we are that they all agreed and want to help us…It shows us that we really do belong to this country and are one of them and it doesn’t matter what religion or culture we have. I really appreciate that.”
She added: “It gave our family hope that they were supporting us and we now feel it’s not just our case, it’s everyone’s case.”

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