Ibrahim Halawa verdict delayed in Egypt

The news will come as a further blow to Mr Halawa’s family – who were expecting a verdict today

Updated 16:00

A verdict in Ibrahim Halawa’s trial in Egypt has been delayed until the 18th of September.

The news will come as a further blow to Mr Halawa’s family – who were expecting the decision would be announced today.

The 21-year-old from Firhouse in Dublin has been held in an Egyptian jail since his arrest during demonstrations against the ousting of former-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 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to speak to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi about the trial over the phone today.

Speaking this afternoon, the Health Minister Simon Harris said the government is extraordinarily frustrated at the latest delay to the trial.

"The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs will outline the government's position on this but my understanding of the government's position is that we expect Ibrahim Halawa to be returned to Ireland as soon as a verdict is delivered in his trial," he said.

"We are very disappointed and frustrated that that did not happen today. There was a genuine expectation that it would." 

Amnesty International has declared Mr Halawa a prisoner of conscience and insisted that he was arrested “solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of assembly and expression.”

Amnesty Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman said the latest delay is like "groundhog day" for the Dubliner - adding that he does not believe there is any case against him:

"Right through the course of this four-year trial process, not a single jot of evidence was introduced before the court that in any way named or linked Ibrahim to any of the serious charges that have been made against him," he said.

"We knew that the only reason he was being detained in a prison cell - from the age of 17, four years ago - was for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression."

Presidential pardon

Regardless of the outcome at the next sitting of the court, Mr Halawa could return to Ireland under a Presidential pardon.

The current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reportedly made the commitment during a meeting he held with an eight-member Oireachtas delegation in Cairo in January.

In a tweet this morning, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney confirmed the decision had been delayed - adding that while the decision is very frustrating, “we keep working.”

In a statement he said: "This is very frustrating for Ibrahim Halawa and for his family, who were expecting some definitive news today, and I fully share that sense of disappointment and frustration at yet another delay in this long-running case."

"Nonetheless, we will be continuing to work in support of Ibrahim and his family and doing everything we can to ensure that he is able to return to Ireland as soon as possible once the trial ends," he said.

Deep disappointment

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said she share the “deep disappointment felt by the family of Ibrahim Halawa following the postponement of a verdict.”

“This is a very difficult consular case for the Department of Foreign Affairs and the officials working behind the scenes have my full support,” she said.

“Ireland has respected the legal process and we expect it to deliver. 

“At a time when hopes are high this further delay is very frustrating.

“Nevertheless we must continue to put in place the supports necessary to ensure Ibrahim’s health and well-being when he is allowed home to be reunited with his loved ones.”

Mr Halawa was 17-years-old when he was arrested alongside his sisters at the Al Fath Mosque in Cairo.

His sisters were released on bail and have since returned to Ireland.