Government will support a new application for Ibrahim Halawa's release

Lawyers for the young Dublin man deny 'interference' accusation by Egyptian parliament

Government will support a new application for Ibrahim Halawa's release

Ibrahim Halawa's sisters demonstrate for his release outside Leinster House | File photo:

The government has confirmed that it will support a new legal application to release Irishman Ibrahim Halawa from prison in Egypt.

The 20-year-old’s trial has been repeatedly adjourned since his arrest in Cairo three years ago.

Lawyers representing Mr Halawa, who was born and raised in Dublin, expect to lodge a request for his immediate release before the end of week.

The application is being made under the Egyptian presidential decree, law 140, which allows foreign defendants to be repatriated back to their country of origin before sentencing.

The legal provision was used last year to free Australian journalist Peter Greste, whose deportation renewed hope for Mr Halawa’s case.

It comes after the Egyptian House of Representatives accused Ireland of "unacceptable interference" following calls for his release by the Oireachtas.

The BBC reported that a statement read by Speaker Ali Abdul Aal on Sunday alleged Mr Halawa was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. His family has repeatedly denied the claim.

Senators and TDs passed all-party motions last month calling for a full diplomatic effort to have the young man returned to Ireland.

Mr Halawa’s solicitor, Darragh Mackin, has described the Egyptian parliament’s statement as “politically charged” and “concerning”, saying it “has no basis in law”.

“There has been no attempt to interfere in the separation of power,” he said in a statement. 

“Egyptian’s own domestic law, Law 140, expressly provides a mechanism for the transfer of accused or convicted prisoners from Egypt to their home country.

“Therefore, it is against this backdrop, and aside from the objections raised by the Egyptian House of Representatives, that we will ultimately be asking for the Egyptian attorney general to petition President El-Sisi for Ibrahim’s immediate release.”

Ireland's position

A previous application submitted under the same decree in February 2015 proved unsuccessful, but the case has a stronger basis this time, according to Mr Mackin.

He told Newstalk Breakfast: “We’ve come on quite some way [since then]. There have been resolutions passed in the EU parliament.

“The case has been raised at the highest level in the UN and the Irish government is now fully behind the application, which we say significantly increases the prospect of success of any application.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs told that it intends to support the fresh application for Mr Halawa’s release.

“The government is proactively using all of the tools available to us to apply maximum pressure on the Egyptian government at the highest levels to ensure that they fully understand our concerns and the importance that the Irish government attaches to the resolution of this case,” it said.

“Both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade have spoken to their Egyptian counterparts on a number of occasions, and the Egyptian government is very clear on Ireland’s position.

“In light of the most recent adjournment in the trial and in close and ongoing coordination with the Halawa family and their legal representatives, the government intends to lend its full and urgent support to a further request for release under Presidential Decree 140, as it also did with a previous application in April of 2015.

“We will continue to work in support of these efforts.”