Egyptian president reportedly suggests he will grant Ibrahim Halawa clemency following trial

A cross-party Oireachtas delegation held a 45-minute meeting with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi this afternoon

The Egyptian president has suggested he will intervene to ensure that Ibrahim Halawa is released and returned to Ireland as soon as his trial concludes.

The 21-year-old Irish citizen has seen his trial postponed on 17 occasions and has now been held for over three years and three months without a court hearing.

Concerns have been raised over the Dubliner’s health, with reports that he is currently on hunger strike.

Mr Halawa has been imprisoned since his arrest during demonstrations against the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi in August 2013.

Oireachtas delegation

His situation was the focus of a 45-minute meeting between current Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and an eight-member Oireachtas delegation in Cairo this afternoon.

Following the meeting, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said the group had been given the "clear impression" that President el-Sisi will use his power to grant Mr Halawa clemency and return him to Ireland following his trial. 

However, the president is reported to have again claimed he could not intervene in the trial until the judicial process is completed.

Human rights organisations - and Mr Halawa’s lawyers - have continuously challenged that assertion and pointed to the fact that others have been released while their trials were ongoing - including 82 students who were last year granted presidential pardons while awaiting trial.

Safe and speedy return

Another member of the delegation, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said President el-Sisi has been “left in no doubt” that the entire membership of the Dáil “and the people we represent” want Mr Halawa returned home.

Mr Ó Broin said that while the president was unwilling to intervene before the trial concludes - he had committed to ensuring Mr Halawa’s “safe and speedy return” when the legal process is complete.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland welcomed the reports but warned that Mr Halawa's return is still, "dependent upon the completion of an unfair judicial process which shows no sign of coming to a conclusion."

“Ibrahim has spent almost three and a half years in prison in clear violation of his human rights and in breach of international and Egyptian law," he said. "He should be immediately and unconditionally released.

"Though this news is welcome, it is dependent on the completion of his mass trial which does not meet fair trial standards required under international law.

"It is long past time that the Egyptian authorities respect international human rights law and allow this young Irish citizen to return home."

Diplomatic pressure

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan - another member of the delegation - said that while there is still no guarantee that Mr Halawa will be returned to Ireland any time soon, "there is a lot of diplomatic pressure now and a lot of interest."

"I think that they understand that and hopefully that will help us see this resolved very quickly," he said.

"Nothing is certain, nothing is definite; it is very much in the hands of the judicial system. But hopefully, if a trial is held, following that, we would be confident after listening to President Sisi today that he would be released."

The Oireachtas delegation also held meetings with the EU external action service, members of the Egyptian parliament, senior army generals this afternoon.