Minister refuses to say if he believes torture claims

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has refused to say whether he believes Irish prisoner Ibrahim Halawa’s claims that he has been tortured in an Egyptian jail.

The comments came as Mr Halawa, from Dublin, called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to personally intervene in his case after a trial date was put back, for a tenth time, to October 4.

Mr Flanagan said he took the torture allegations seriously, but stopped short of saying that he believed them.

“There seems to be a conflict as to the nature of his treatment in prison,” Mr Flanagan told RTÉ, saying he had pressed Egyptian counterparts to release Mr Halawa, but its justice system needed to be allowed to take its course.

“Any allegation of mistreatment in prison anywhere I would take seriously,” Mr Flanagan said. “It is important that there be a trial. An Irish citizen has been detained in Egypt for two years , I believe it is an inordinate length of time and I want to see him home.”

The remarks came as opposition parties stepped-up calls for the Government to do more to aid Mr Halawa.

Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan visited Mr Halawa in jail with his sister yesterday. The Sinn Féin representative warned that the teenage prisoner needed to see a specialist doctor as soon as possible.

“To see the 19-year-old hug his big sister would break your heart. He clung tight to her hand the entire time,” Ms Boylan said.

“For me to meet and talk with Ibrahim personally after fighting on his behalf for over 15 months was so important.

“To have time to talk with him and to relay how we were all campaigning back home for him. It was especially crucial to hear form him directly that he firmly believes that the publicity from the public support he is getting back home is helping to keep him safe.

“While I know the visit and being able to hug his sister has lifted his spirits, I would, however, have concerns about his health and I would echo his lawyers’ calls for the need for him to see a specialist doctor as soon as possible.”

The Halawa family have called on Mr Kenny to get personally involved in the campaign to free Mr Halawa by using the prestige of his office to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities.

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