Irish student facing death sentence in Egypt 'begs to be buried back home' if he cannot be saved

Writing from his Egyptian jail cell, 21-year-old Ibrahim Halawa speaks of torture and his own death

Adam Withnall
Africa Correspondent
Friday 02 December 2016 15:35 GMT
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Ibrahim Halawa was arrested after attending a pro-democracy protest in Cairo with his three older sisters in August 2013
Ibrahim Halawa was arrested after attending a pro-democracy protest in Cairo with his three older sisters in August 2013

An Irish student who has been detained without trial in Egypt for three years has written home begging to be buried back in Ireland if he does not make it out of jail alive.

Ibrahim Halawa was arrested for allegedly taking part in protests in Cairo in 2013, when he was just 17 years old, and has had the threat of a death sentence hanging over him ever since.

Last week, it was reported that the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, had written to Egyptian President Fattah al-Sisi requesting Mr Halawa's immediate release. That request has been rejected, according to The Times.

The 21-year-old student, who was born and raised in Dublin, has now written a letter from jail which carries concerning references to torture and his own death.

"Dear Ireland," the letter reads. "I have been taken away from you for so long. But I miss you dearly. It’s really out of my hands. I just can’t understand why they have kidnapped me away from you."

Mr Halawa has previously compained of witnessing torture and himself suffering physical and psychological abuse.

He wrote: "Ireland, I really need to complain to you about how one human enjoys torturing another human, the continued injustice, the oppression and the killing of the innocent."

And in a final paragraph which appears to allude to the fact that, if convicted, he faces a death sentence, he said: "One final wish, I beg from you, if I die away from you take me back from them to be buried in your soil to feel your goodbye tears."

Mr Halawa faces a mass trial, but the shambolic nature of proceedings has seen the hearing adjourned 16 times.

The Irish foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan, has raised the student's case multiple times with his Egyptian counterpart, according to the Irish Times, while EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has also reportedly raised the case with Cairo.

And Reprieve, the UK-based legal charity which is working on Mr Halawa's case, said the UK also had a role to play in bringing pressure to bear on the Egyptian government.

Theresa May met President Sisi in September, and the Foreign Office says she impressed on him "the importance of human rights" being observed by the Egyptian regime.

Yet at the same time, during a session in the Commons at the end of November minister Tobias Ellwood admitted Britain was "providing support" to the Egyptian security forces.

Asked about the security situation in the country, Mr Ellwood said: "President Sisi is very conscious of the challenges that Egypt is facing from its own extremists, and Britain is providing support on that."

Nosayba (left) and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, on Grafton Street in Dublin's city centre, where family members and supporters held an awareness day
Nosayba (left) and Somaia Halawa, sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, on Grafton Street in Dublin's city centre, where family members and supporters held an awareness day (PA)

Speaking to The Independent, Reprieve's director Maya Foa said: "The UK continues to provide assistance to President Sisi – a man who has presided over the jailing, torture and sentencing to death of hundreds of alleged protestors, including children.

"Ministers have a duty to ensure that UK support doesn’t inadvertently bolster the detention of people like Ibrahim Halawa – a juvenile who should never have been locked up in the first place.

"While it’s welcome that Theresa May has raised human rights concerns with Sisi, the Prime Minister must now push strongly for the release of all those detained on political charges – including Ibrahim.”

Read Ibrahim Halawa's letter from Wadi el Natroun Prison in full:

“Dear Ireland,

I really don’t know what to say, I have been taken away from you for so long. But I miss you dearly. It’s really out of my hands. I can’t understand, I just can’t understand why they have kidnapped me away from you. So young I was while you were teaching me how to live, laugh, love and care. But they have taken me away before you had the time to teach me how to struggle, how to deal with evil and hatred.

When I was young I used to run to you whenever I was sad and needed to complain about my humongous kiddie problems. The time my Mum delayed getting me the latest PlayStation game when all the other friends had it. Or when I wasn’t allowed stay out late at night. And when I entered secondary school and exams were much tougher than before. Or that time I came to complain about my first teenage love.

Do you remember when I came running to you crying about the kid who screamed at me saying “go back to your country” and as usual you were crying rain and I was relieved because you were sharing my crying. But now that I’m growing up away from you and banned from talking to you, who am I supposed to complain to now that my kiddie worldly problems turned out to be just a drop in the ocean.

Ireland, I really need to complain to you about how one human enjoys torturing another human, the continued injustice, the oppression and the killing of the innocent. Ireland I’m lusting to walk on the sand of Bray beach, screaming freedom from the top of the Cliffs of Moher, your rainforest trees to hug me tight and make me feel safe again and that kind bus driver on the daily commute, smiling at me even thought he does not know me.

Ireland I really want to complain to you about the people my parents voted for, to protect me in any land and under any sky, and have failed to bring me back to you. Now I understand that you were not crying this rains with me but you were crying because of what the world holds for me

One final wish, I beg from you, if I die away from you take me back from them to be buried in your soil to feel your goodbye tears.”

Ibrahim Halawa,

Wadi el Natroun Prison

29/11/2016.”

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