Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Tony Blair urged to help Irish teen facing death penalty in Egypt

Mass trial has been described as 'mockery of a court process'

Tony Blair has been urged to intervene in the case of an Irish teenager who has been imprisoned without trial in Egypt for a year and is now facing the death penalty in a mass trial, which has been described as a “mockery of a court process”.

Ibrahim Halawa, 18, from Firhouse, a suburb of Dublin, was arrested in August 2013 along with his three sisters after they were caught up in a military siege of a mosque in Cairo while his family was on holiday in the country.

The siblings were attending a protest in response to the killing of demonstrators at Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque a few days earlier.

When Mr Halawa was detained he was only 17 and technically a juvenile, but his supporters say that he has been held illegally in a series of adult prisons in the Egyptian capital.

In a letter from one of the jails, he said that he had been forced to drink toilet water and had been stripped naked and beaten by prison guards, who have refused to tell him what charges he faces.

He appeared in court last Tuesday where he is to be tried as an adult along with 480 other prisoners in a controversial mass trial.

However, the proceedings were immediately postponed after the judge walked out of the courtroom before any evidence was heard.

The charity Reprieve, which campaigns against the death penalty, has written to Mr Blair, urging the former Prime Minister to use his influence with the Egyptian government to help Mr Halawa.

Mr Blair, who is a Middle East peace envoy, is currently acting as an informal adviser to the country’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was voted into power last May, on economic reform.

In its letter to Mr Blair, seen by The Independent, the director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, Maya Foa, asks him to ensure that Mr Halawa is not subjected to an illegal trial “given your interest in the region and your ties to the Egyptian administration”.

Ms Foa said on Sunday: “Ibrahim Halawa has spent a year of his young life detained without charge, horribly abused, and now subject to a mockery of a court process that could spell the death penalty for him and hundreds of others. Tony Blair should be using his obvious influence with Egypt’s leadership to secure both Ibrahim’s release and an end to these illegal mass trials.”

Mr Halawa’s sisters were all released shortly after being arrested and had to leave their brother behind.

Somaia Halawa, 29, who is now back in Dublin where she is about to begin a Master’s degree, said her family was being “destroyed” by Mr Halawa’s continued imprisonment. “It feels like I’m in a coma, like all this is not real,” she said.

Asked what she would like to say to Mr Blair, she replied: “Put yourself in my family’s situation, my dad’s situation. If this was your son, what action would you be taking? My brother hasn’t committed any crime.

“I hope that [Mr Blair] does the best he can to try to get my brother home to Ireland. It’s been a year now and he’s had enough; 12 months have been taken from his life already.”

It is understood that Mr Blair has received the letter but a spokeswoman for him declined to comment.