Dublin man was 17 when arrested and imprisoned in 2013 while attending Cairo protest
The last witnesses were called in Egypt on Sunday in the trial of Dublin man Ibrahim Halawa, who has been in jail in Cairo for 3½ years.
Following the postponement of the case for the 27th time, Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said it appeared to be “moving towards a conclusion”.
Mr Halawa and hundreds of others were arrested in August 2013 at the Al Fateh grand mosque and Ramses Square in Cairo during protests against the ousting of then president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The trial has been hearing evidence in recent months, but no evidence implicating Mr Halawa has been presented. However, he is facing charges that carry a penalty as severe as death.
On Sunday the court heard from 17 witnesses called by defence lawyers and video evidence was also viewed. The trial will resume again on July 25th, at which time the prosecution will present its closing arguments.
Mr Coveney said he received a report on the latest developments in Mr Halawa’s trial from a team of Irish diplomats at the Irish Embassy in Cairo. “It has taken a long time to get to this stage in the process, but it finally looks as if this trial is moving towards a conclusion,” he said.
“The judge said that this was the full list of defence witnesses, and that no further witnesses remain to be called in the trial,” he said.
The Government has defended its approach to the lengthy detention of Mr Halawa, who is from Firhouse in Dublin, but has been regularly criticised over the case.
In briefing material prepared for Mr Coveney on his appointment to the role last month, Department of Foreign Affairs officials identified the Halawa case as one of three “immediate and high priority issues” facing him, along with Brexit and efforts to restore the Northern Executive.
The officials warned that any move by the Government to take legal action against Egypt over the treatment of Mr Halawa would result in Cairo pulling back from a commitment to release him.
Referring to calls on the Government to take a case against Egypt at the International Court of Justice, the officials wrote that any such action would be “complex and protracted” and there would be no guarantee that it would be ultimately successful.
“Our assessment is that any such action would be viewed as hostile by Cairo and would result in the existing commitment to release Mr Halawa once the trial ends being taken off the table,” the memo states.
The department believes “the [relatively] early release of Mr Halawa is more likely to be achieved through a continuation of the current determined and firm political/diplomatic approach”.
Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland said Mr Halawa was arrested for “peacefully exercising his right to freedom of assembly and expression”.
“This young Irish man should be at home in Dublin, with his family and friends. Instead, he’s spent almost four years languishing in an Egyptian prison awaiting trial for crimes he did not commit,” Mr O’Gorman said.