Coveney: Ibrahim Halawa 'finally given opportunity to defend himself in court'

Minister Coveney is warning that it "may still be some time" before the outcome of the mass trial is known

The Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said it "may still be some time" before the outcome of Ibrahim Halawa's trial process is known.

Mr Halawa (21), from Firhouse, has been held in an Egyptian jail since his arrest during demonstrations against the ousting of president Mohammed Morsi in August 2013.

He has now spent almost four years in prison, amid continued delays to a mass trial that involves more than 490 other defendants.

The court has now begun hearing from the defence, and Minister Coveney says Mr Halawa "has finally had his opportunity to defend himself in court". 

In a statement this evening, Minister Coveney said: "It has taken a long time to get here, but I welcome the fact that we have finally arrived at the point where Mr Halawa and his lawyers have had an opportunity to give his side of the story and to put forward legal argument in his defence. 

“Our understanding, from contacts with Mr Halawa’s legal team is that the defence arguments of all of the defendants in the trial will be heard before any verdicts are announced in this mass trial, so it may still be some time before we know the outcome of this protracted trial process for Ibrahim Halawa." 

He added: “However, there is no doubt that the end of this ordeal now appears closer than it has done at any point during the past four years."

The Irish Ambassador to Egypt and other embassy observers were in court today to 'monitor proceedings'.

Further hearings are expected to take place in the coming days.

The prosecution concluded its case against Mr Halawa and other defendants last week.

Ibrahim's sister Somaia says they do not expect a speedy conclusion to the ongoing trial.

She said that while some may see today as progress, "the reality is only seven lawyers got to speak today [...] We're still left with 485 lawyers."