Tony Blair urged to stop Irish teen’s Egypt death sentence

August 18, 2014

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is being urged to intervene in the case of an Irish teenager caught up in Egypt’s controversial mass trials, as details emerged of Mr Blair’s role as an ‘advisor’ to the country’s military leaders.

Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa was 17 when he was arrested last August during the army’s breakup of protests in Cairo. Held for the past year in a series of adult prisons without charge or trial, he is now being tried as an adult alongside nearly 500 other prisoners.

At a chaotic hearing last week in a makeshift courtoom in Cairo, hundreds of prisoners including Mr Halawa were unable to see or hear proceedings. Some were reportedly held behind soundproof glass walls, while others were denied entry to the court altogether.

Mr Halawa is one of hundreds of juveniles arrested in Egypt during last year’s protests, in contravention of international law and the country’s own Child Laws. The Egyptian authorities have refused to consider an emergency passport provided by Irish consular officials as proof of Mr Halawa’s age and nationality, and insist on trying him as an adult. If convicted, he may face a death sentence.

Over the past 12 months in prison, Mr Halawa has reported being stripped, beaten with chains and whips, forced to drink from the toilet, and subjected to racist taunts by prison guards for being Irish.

Tony Blair’s links with the military government of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi were revealed last month, and further called into question this week as hearings in the mass trial began. At the same time, a new Human Rights Watch report found that Egyptian security forces “systematically” killed large numbers of mainly unarmed demonstrators last August in Rabaa, the area where Mr Halawa was arrested.

Legal charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Halawa, has written to Mr Blair asking him to use his influence with the regime to secure Mr Halawa’s release, while ensuring all 494 prisoners receive a fair trial.

Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “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.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk / +44 207 553 8160

2. Reprieve’s letter to Tony Blair can be read here.