Family of Irishman Ibrahim Halawa say he is 'losing ability to cope'

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa

The family of the Irishman in jail in Egypt say he has started another hunger strike and they fear he is losing his ability to cope with the stress of being held.

In a statement released today the Halawa family said: "Ibrahim has recommenced his hunger strike because he has reached the stage where he is giving up and is going to continue this hunger strike until he is freed."

The family said the 21-year old Dubliner hasn't eaten for 15 days . 
"We welcome the upcoming visit by Oireachtas members to Cairo to visit Ibrahim in prison and to advocate for his immediate release. We are of course hopeful that this visit will help secure Ibrahim's release but we remain extremely worried as does he that this ordeal will just continue and continue. 
We know that Ibrahim is losing the ability to be able to cope with this."

The student marked his 21st birthday in a Cairo jail last month as a mass trial was adjourned for a 17th time, three years on from his detention during a crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said at the time that the further delay was to be regretted but added that a technical review of evidence in the case has been completed.

"The Irish Government remains determined to see Ibrahim Halawa return to his family in Ireland and we will not relent in our efforts with the Egyptian authorities to secure Ibrahim's release," he said.

Ireland's Ambassador to Egypt Damien Cole was in court for that hearing.

From Firhouse in Dublin and the son of prominent Muslim cleric Sheikh Hussein Halawa, Ibrahim Halawa was detained in a mosque near Ramses Square in Cairo as the Muslim Brotherhood held a "day of rage" over the removal of their elected president Mohamed Morsi in August 2013.

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz wrote to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el Sisi in December to express concern about the case.

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan also called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to phone the Egyptian leader and to ramp up diplomatic lobbying to secure Mr Halawa's release as part of a youth amnesty.

"A Dublin teenager is missing out on some of the best years of his youth and it is absolutely urgent that all possible avenues are explored by the Irish government to end this travesty of justice in Egypt," she said.

Mr Flanagan said the Government is focused on putting pressure on Egypt over an application to secure Mr Halawa's deportation to Ireland.

He added: "The Government will continue to use every possible opportunity to underline our concerns about this case to the Egyptian authorities, both bilaterally and with the EU and other partners."

Mr Halawa's case is due before the court again on January 17.