Two sisters of Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish citizen who has been detained in Egpyt without trial for almost four years now, are suing the Minister for Justice over a delay of more than 18 months in deciding applications to have their husbands join them here.
Omaima and Somaia Halawa, both Irish citizens, have, along with their husbands - respectively Mohamed Abdo Mahmoud Aly and Emadelin Mohamed Arab - taken judicial review proceedings against the Minister in the High Court.
Both men are Egyptian nationals currently residing in Turkey.
Omaima Halawa said she and her husband are expecting their first child in August but, despite having applied for a Join Spouse visa in October 2015, they have yet to receive a decision. The delay is "deeply distressing", she said.
Michael Lynn SC, instructed by KOD Lyons Solicitors, for the sisters, with an address at Firhouse, Tallaght, and their husbands, secured leave today from Ms Justice Miriam O'Regan to bring the case.
The case will come back before the court on June 19.
In their proceedings, the sisters said they, along with their brother Ibrahim and another sister, were detained by Egyptian security forces in August 2013 whie taking refuge in a mosque during protests against the military coup in Egypt.
The sisters were detained for three months before being released without charge but their brother remains detained in Egypt, they said.
The applicants claim the delay in deciding the Join Spouse visa applications is inordinate and unlawful and want orders compelling the Minister to decide them “forthwith”.
The delay breaches their legal rights as married couples and also breaches the Minister’s legal duties under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, it is claimed.
The sisters also allege unlawful discrimination against them as Irish citizens exercising their rights concerning free movement rights of EU citizens and their families.
In an affidavit, Omaima Halawa said she met her husband during a family holiday in Turkey in summer 2014 and they married in August 2015 in Istanbul. Her husband applied for a visa in October 2015 but, despite several attempts since then to contact the Visa Office about the status of that, no explanation was given for the delay in deciding it.
Her solicitor was informed in December 2016 by the Department of Justice visa section the application was being considered but no further information would be provided until they got a signed letter of authority from her husband, she said.
Her husband provided that signed letter of authority, and the Department was also given a letter from the Coombe Hospital concerning the due date of their baby. Details of the continued detention of her brother were also provided.
In her affidvait, Somaia Halawa said she met her husband in February 2015 in Turkey and they married in August 2015 in Istanbul. Her husband had applied for a Join Spouse visa in October 2015 but a decision on that has yet to be made.