Man detained without trial in Egypt says 'Thank you Wexford'
A young Irish man, detained without trial in Egypt for more than three years, has written from his prison cell to a Wexford campaigner for Amnesty International, thanking her, the people of town and county for their unconditional support.
Dubliner Ibrahim Halawa has been in prison since August 2013 when he was arrested at the Fateh mosque in Cairo during protests against the ousting of then-president Mohamed Morsi.
He is accused along with 493 others on serious charges which could result in life imprisonment or the death penalty, however, his trial date has been repeatedly delayed and appeals to Egyptian authorities for him to be freed because he did not commit any crime have so far fallen on deaf ears.
Ibrahim, who will be 21 on December 13, wrote to Amnesty member Lorraine Smyth saying he wanted to thank her for the 'amazing work' she and her family were doing and 'to everyone in Wexford who has supported me.'
'Thank you Lorraine.. thank you for being there,' says Ibrahim, 'your shining name will be there to light up my pages (during) my dark moments in a dark cell'.
Lorraine, who lives in Barntown, is very active in the campaign to fee Ibrahim, who was aged less than 17 when he was first arrested, and only last weekend attended a protest outside the Egyptian Embassy in London with two of his sisters Omaima and Fatima, who were arrested with him but subsequently released.
Former Dublin resident Lorraine said her family connected personally with Ibrahim in part because he and her son Daragh had been born only days apart in the Coombe Hospital in Dublin and would most likely have become friends had her family not moved to Wexford.
'Because they are close in age, I really took an interest,' she told this newspaper.
Adding to the family effort, the campaign has been taken up by Daragh as well and Lorraine's youngstest daugher Aisling, a student at the Loreto in Wexford, wrote about Ibrahim in an essay she was asked to write 'about an international incident'.
'I'd say if it was one of our lads with a name like Daragh or David he'd be out by now,' said Lorraine, commenting on the government's limp-wristed approach to the Egyptian government on Ibrahim's behalf.
'People may think he is Egyptian, but he is an Irish citizen. He has an Irish passport (which has been confiscated by the Egyptian authorities, and had to apply for a visa to get into Egypt.. he's an ordinary young lad with a Dublin accent,' said Lorraine, appealing to Wexford people to lobby Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny to exert more pressure on Cairo.
'I really believe that if enough of us get behind the campaign, Ibrahim will be freed,' said Lorraine.
'He had no case to answer so should not be facing trial.. he should be back home in Ireland,' she said, adding that Ibrahim had had to the option of going to Spain with his former classmates to celebrate after his finishing his leaving certificate, but instead chose to go to Egypt with his sisters to see members of his family still living there. 'What's happening is tragic. It's really bad and I fear the worst,' she said.
Ibrahim's case has been adjourned until November 12.
In the meantime, Amnesty is Wexford is appealing to more people to join its ranks. Anyone interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org Lorraine has been a member of Amnesty since she was in secondary school and last year visited Palestine and the West Bank, to see for herself the living conditions, particularly those of refugees and displaced people. 'I was in Palestine for 10 days and visited the Bedouin tribes and displaced people, people in refugee camps, rabbis for peace and Jewish mothers who were against their children joining the IDF (Israel Defence Force) and a playground in Bethlehem sponsored by Irish people. 'When you get back, you realise how lucky you are.'