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MPs Urge Cameron to Raise Human Rights and Death Penalty With Sisi


MPs today urged David Cameron to raise human rights and Egypt's use of the death penalty with President Sisi, including the case of Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish teenager facing a potential death sentence in a mass trial.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 in an interview broadcast this morning, Ibrahim's sister Somaia said that her mother had had a distressing visit to Ibrahim on Tuesday at Wadi Natrun prison, where he has said he suffers regular beatings. Somaia said: "She's a mother - she can't hold her tears when she sees her son in this situation. He kept telling her, please Mama don't cry, because if you do I will cry too."

Ibrahim, who was 17 when he was arrested during the Egyptian military's breakup of protests, is facing a potential death sentence in a mass trial of 494 people that has been frequently postponed over the past 2 years. During that time, he has faced a series of abuses in prison. His family have written to David Cameron, calling on him to raise Ibrahim's case during the Egyptian President's visit today.

Somaia also spoke of the poor trial conditions, saying that Ibrahim had been beaten and tortured as punishment for demanding a fair trial during at least one hearing. He had been beaten with metal chains by prison authorities, she said, for no reason other than that he is 'foreign'. "Let's not forget that he is facing the death penalty [...] just for peacefully protesting", she added. The Halawas are trying to "keep strong",she said, adding that they were "very hopeful" that Mr Cameron would intervene with President Sisi.

The interview came as MPs raised concerns in Parliament about abuses in Egypt, including Ibrahim's case. This morning, an urgent question tabled by Tom Brake MP asked if the Prime Minister would raise the case. In response, Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood confirmed that British officials had raised it with Egypt "this summer". However, he stopped short of confirming that Mr Cameron would press the case during his meeting with Mr Sisi, saying only that "many matters" relating to human rights would be discussed. Other MPs, including Foreign Affairs Committee chair Crispin Blunt MP, raised concerns about the timing of Mr Sisi's visit, amid widespread reports of torture and political repression in Egypt.

Human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim, has urged the Prime Minister to raise Ibrahim's case during Sisi's visit.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: "Ibrahim and his family have been through a heartbreaking ordeal since he was swept up in Sisi's brutal crackdown on dissent. Despite having been just a child when he was arrested for the 'crime' of attending a protest, Ibrahim is facing a death sentence in a manifestly unfair mass trial of 494 people. Cameron must make clear to Sisi that the UK rejects these terrible abuses - the Prime Minister must demand Ibrahim's release, and urge Sisi to end his wave of repression."

Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay.