"That Dáil Éireann:
notes that Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish citizen, has been detained without due process in Egypt for three years since being arrested as a child of 17 years-of-age;
considers this to be an unacceptable infringement of his basic human rights by any international standard;
believes that the conditions of his imprisonment are of serious concern, given his young age, the length of time he has been in detention, his separation from family and friends in his home country, and having regard to his general physical and mental welfare and well-being, all factors which have contributed to the extreme suffering and distress being endured by Ibrahim in these circumstances;
acknowledges the tremendous distress his family in Ireland have been experiencing since Ibrahim's detention;
further notes that his, along with over 400 co-accused, trial date has been adjourned fourteen times, that the trial is due to resume in October, and that there is still no clear indication as to when it will conclude;
recognises that he has been designated by Amnesty International as a Prisoner of Conscience;
recalls that on the 17th December, 2015 the European Parliament passed a resolution by 566 votes to 11, calling for the immediate release of Ibrahim Halawa;
requests the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence to invite the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Her Excellency Soha Gendi, to appear before it to address the repeated delays in Ibrahim's trial and to request her to convey to the relevant authorities in Egypt this House's concern that Ibrahim Halawa should be released and allowed to return to Ireland as soon as possible;
proposes that a parliamentary delegation be established to visit the Egyptian Parliament and seek to arrange a visit to Ibrahim Halawa in prison;
welcomes the confirmation from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade that the Government will give its full and urgent support to a further application for Ibrahim's release by Presidential decree under Law 140 from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to allow Ibrahim to return to Ireland immediately, supports the Government in its continued efforts to secure Ibrahim's release and, while he is in detention, to provide all appropriate consular assistance to him and his family, including through regular visits by Embassy officials to Ibrahim in prison; and
resolves that this motion be brought to the attention of the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Her Excellency Soha Gendi, so that she may convey it to the relevant authorities in Cairo."
I welcome the opportunity this afternoon to support the motion before the House regarding the consular case of Ibrahim Halawa, a young Irish citizen detained now for almost three years in Egypt following his arrest during protests in Cairo in 2013. This consular case is a high priority for the Irish Government. In my first week in office as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I met Ibrahim's father, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, and I undertook to do all I could as Minister to secure lbrahim's return to Ireland and to ensure that we supported him while he was in prison. I was acutely conscious of Ibrahim's tender age at the time of his arrest - he was 17 years of age - and I continue to have serious concerns about the fact that he is subject to a group trial.
During my period as Minister and, indeed, prior to my appointment, when the former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore was Minister, this case has received unprecedented and sustained attention from the Government, particularly from my Department and our embassy in Cairo. I am aware of the sincere interest in this consular case in these Houses, and both I and the Taoiseach, and, indeed, other members of Government, regularly answer questions and speak on it in Parliament. In fact, I addressed this matter during parliamentary questions on Tuesday evening last. None the less, today is an important opportunity to again update the House on the actions being taken by myself and my colleagues in government in the furtherance of our clear strategy in relation to this case. This comprises two core elements: first, to see Ibrahim released by the Egyptian authorities so that he can return to his family and his studies in Ireland as soon as possible; and, second, to provide every possible consular support for his welfare while he remains in detention.
In terms of our efforts to secure his release, I and the Government are proactively using all of the tools that are available to us to apply maximum pressure on the Egyptian Government at the highest levels to ensure that it fully understands our concerns and the importance that the Irish Government attaches to the resolution of this case. However, the Irish Government has at all times supported applications for Ibrahim's release made by his legal team. This includes support for a bail application and support for the first application made under Egyptian decree 140 in 2015.
I want to be very clear on one point. There have been some assertions in the past that the Irish Government has misunderstood or misrepresented the provisions of Egyptian decree 140. We do not dispute that the text of this decree suggests that it is capable of being applied at any stage in the course of criminal justice proceedings and does not need to await a final verdict. However, what we have said, and what continues to be the position, is that the Egyptian Government has been clear and consistent in telling us on all occasions that it will not be considered while the case remains before the courts.
In light of the latest adjournment in the trial and in close and ongoing co-ordination 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. We will continue to work actively in support of these efforts. In fact, the Taoiseach conveyed this message directly to the Egyptian President, Mr. el-Sisi, on Monday last when he once again called him on the case. This was the third occasion on which the Taoiseach spoke to President el-Sisi about the case of Ibrahim Halawa. On Monday, he used the opportunity to once again convey and underline our concerns at the latest adjournment, and stressed yet again the importance that the Government places on this case. In the course of that call, the Taoiseach set out, as we have done in previous contacts with the Egyptian authorities, the arguments for the immediate release of Ibrahim Halawa.
The Egyptian President made it very clear that he understands that this is a significant matter of concern for the Irish Government. He pointed to the requirement to respect the doctrine of separation of powers, as the Egyptian authorities have done consistently, and said that the Egyptian Government is not in a position to intervene in a case which is before the courts. However, the President made clear to the Taoiseach that he wishes to see this matter resolved in the context of a positive bilateral relationship between our two countries.
For my part, I have had a long series of engagements, by phone, by letter and face-to-face, with my Egyptian counterpart, the foreign Minister, Mr. Sameh Shoukry, over the past two years since I was first appointed to this role. Last month, when in the Middle East, I availed of an opportunity to visit Cairo to meet Mr. Shoukry and once again raise the case with him, making perfectly clear the Irish Government's concerns and objectives. My visit conveyed the high importance that I, personally, and the Irish Government attach to this case.
Members of the House will be aware of the statement I issued on the day of the trial expressing deep disappointment and frustration with the latest news form the Egyptian court. Indeed, the following morning I met the Egyptian ambassador to Ireland and conveyed to her the deep concern of the Government at the unacceptably prolonged nature of the trial and my own concerns in the case of Ibrahim Halawa.
From all of these engagements, at all levels, I wish to assure the House that the Egyptian Government remains in no doubt about the Irish Government's position on this matter and our anxiety to see Ibrahim Halawa released as soon as possible. I wish to assure the House that the Government will remain resolute in pursuing its clear objectives in this case and in what we firmly believe to be in the citizen's best interests and what is most likely to contribute positively to a satisfactory outcome.
I welcome the motion. I believe it provides a mechanism to reaffirm to the Irish public, to Ibrahim Halawa and his family, and to our international colleagues that the public representatives of this House are working together to achieve the release of this Irish citizen as soon as possible.