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Concerns after Irish Juvenile 'Disappears' from Egypt Jail

The Irish government has faced criticism after it was forced to correct a statement on the whereabouts of Ibrahim Halawa, a juvenile from Dublin who faces the death penalty in Egypt.

Yesterday, Ibrahim’s family raised concerns for his welfare, after hearing reports several days ago from inside Tora prison, Cairo, suggesting that Ibrahim was no longer held there. In response, the Irish Department for Foreign Affairs (DFA) contradicted those reports, saying in a statement that the Egyptian government had assured Irish officials that Ibrahim remained at the prison. However, Irish officials later published a retraction, saying they now believed the Egyptian authorities had moved Ibrahim to another prison, Wadi Natrun. It remains unclear when the move took place.

The concerns over Ibrahim’s whereabouts followed widespread reports of so-called ‘disappearances’ of prisoners and deaths in custody in Egypt, including in the case of Italian student Giulio Regeni. Ibrahim was 17 when he was arrested in Egypt alongside hundreds of protestors, and has been held in a series of prisons since 2013. He has reported being tortured throughout his detention – including beatings when being transferred from one location to another.

Ibrahim faces the death penalty in a mass trial of 494 people, including several other juveniles, which has been postponed repeatedly since 2013. In a report last year on the death penalty in Egypt last year, human rights organization Reprieve – which is assisting Ibrahim – found that over 70% of recent death sentences in Egypt were handed down in relation to protests. The report also detailed the frequency of torture and incommunicado detention in Egyptian prisons.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“Given recent widespread reports of enforced disappearances and deaths in custody in Egypt, it’s shocking that Irish officials appear to have been misled over Ibrahim’s whereabouts – and have taken the Egyptian authorities at their unreliable word. Ibrahim, who was just 17 when he was arrested, has already suffered an unacceptable ordeal of torture, dire prison conditions, and an unlawful mass trial – which could see him sentenced to death. The Irish government must escalate their demands to see Ibrahim without delay, and must challenge the Egyptian government on his appalling treatment.”

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

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