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Irish citizen facing 1,000th day behind bars after protests in Egypt

Rights group Reprieve calls on Egypt to release Ibrahim Halawa, who faces death penalty in mass trial despite being arrested as a juvenile
Ibrahim was shot in the hand before being arrested (courtesy of Free Ebraheem Halawa)

An international rights group is calling on Egypt to drop a mass trial involving an Irish citizen who will spend his 1,000th day behind bars on Friday facing a death penalty despite being arrested as a child.

Ibrahim Halawa was arrested in Cairo aged 17 during protests on 16 August 2013 against the army's overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi. He and his three sisters were caught in a 17-hour standoff at al-Fateh mosque.

He is now one of 493 people facing mass trial for causing criminal damages and deaths at an illegal demonstration, but the trial has been delayed on multiple occasions.

The Reprieve rights group on Thursday alleged that the Dubliner had been beaten and denied medical treatment in detention, and subjected to periods of solitary confinement in cells with no light or toilet.

According to his family, Halawa did not receive treatment for a gunshot wound to his hand suffered just before he was arrested.

Reprieve said he was one of "hundreds" of juveniles who had been arrested in the same protests and still face prosecution. 

"Despite the fact that Ibrahim was a juvenile when arrested, he has been held in adult prisons and is being tried by adult courts," the group said.

"Reprieve has discovered that hundreds of children – including some as young as six – were arrested in the same breakup of protests as Ibrahim. Efforts to have Ibrahim’s case transferred to a juvenile court have been rejected."

The 493 defendants in Ibrahim’s mass trial all face the same charges, "despite a lack of specific evidence linking the vast majority of them to these crimes," the group said.

International humanitarian law states that those arrested as juveniles cannot be executed - a fate Halawa still faces.

Halawa's sisters were released after three months. All four were arrested together, charged together, and attended various hearing together, and but Halawa remains behind bars.

Somaia, one of Halawa's siblings, told Middle East Eye in February 2015 that her brother had been "destroyed. He has lost hope. It's just too much."

Harriet McCulloch, the deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim, said: “Ibrahim has suffered 1,000 days of appalling mistreatment in violation of both international and Egyptian law.  

"It is a scandal that the Egyptian authorities continue to seek the death penalty for Ibrahim despite his having been a child at the time of his arrest.

"The Egyptian authorities must immediately call an end to this mass trial and others like it and release Ibrahim and the hundreds of others like him who have been illegally detained for so long.”