Egypt snaps at EU Parliament for demanding Ibrahim Halawa’s release

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry had harsh words for the European Parliament on Friday after it passed a resolution calling for the release of 20-year-old Irish-Egyptian Ibrahim Halawa from Cairo’s Tora Prison,  reported the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Halawa and his three sisters were arrested in Cairo on August 17, 2013 on charges of participating in a violent protest at Al-Fath Mosque in Cairo’s Ramses neighborhood. His sisters were released shortly thereafter, but he was remanded in custody. Along with 493 other defendants, including 11 minors, Halawa faces charges ranging from attacking security forces and public buildings to committing murder.

After more than two years of repeated postponements, the trial was slated to begin on Tuesday, but the hearing was again postponed and rescheduled for Saturday.

On Thursday, the European Parliament passed a resolution to call for Halawa’s immediate release by an overwhelming majority, with 566 votes for Halawa’s release, 11 votes against and 46 absentee votes.

In response, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid issued a statement Friday dismissing the resolution as an unacceptable violation of the independence of the Egyptian judiciary and of Egypt’s sovereignty as a democratic country, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

The European Parliament stated that Egypt should immediately release Halawa on the grounds that he was arrested as a minor and Egypt is bound by the Convention on the Rights of a Child. The resolution also cited an Egyptian law passed in December 2014 allowing foreign nationals arrested in Egypt to be deported to their home countries.

But should Halawa be tried and convicted, Egypt must “categorically rule out the threat of the death penalty, given that he was arrested as a juvenile,” the parliament further demanded.

Abu Zeid claimed that Halawa does not, in fact, face the death penalty, and that the resolution was riddled with several other factual errors as well, including allegations that Halawa has been tortured in detention.

International human rights group Amnesty International also maintains Halawa could be sentenced to death. Calling him a prisoner of conscience in an August statement, Amnesty further claimed that its own observers on the scene during the 2013 Ramses clashes have established that it would have been impossible for him to shoot at security forces from Al-Fath Mosque, as prosecutors claim.

The rights group, Irish officials and the European Parliament all allege that during his pretrial detention, Halawa has been beaten and tortured, denied medical treatment and denied visits to his lawyer.

Irish officials have been closely following the case. On Tuesday, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan stated that diplomatic staff have been visiting Halawa regularly since his arrest, most recently on November 23, and will continue to pressure Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry for his release.

Halawa has declared hunger strikes on and off throughout his detention period to protest against his arrest, which his family and lawyers say has seriously affected his health.

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