Supporters of Ibrahim Halawa, the Dublin teenager jailed while awaiting trial in Egypt, say lawyers have warned that time is running out to secure his release.
They have been advised that a presidential decree is Ibrahim’s best chance of being freed, but a decree request must be made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny before the Egyptian courts have a chance to convict him.
MEP Lynn Boylan, who gathered legal experts in Brussels for a briefing session, said it is vital Mr Kenny makes the formal request before the scheduled trial date on December 15.
“Under the terms of a presidential decree, if an accused is released they must go into the legal system in their home country,” Ms Boylan said.
“But if Ibrahim is convicted and sentenced to death, the presidential decree could not apply because he could not have that sentence administered here.”
The Sinn Fein MEP was speaking in Dublin after returning from Brussels with legal advisers to privately brief members of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee on the outcome of their discussions.
She said a number of key points had emerged from the gathering, which included Christopher Ward, the lawyer who worked to free Australian journalist Peter Greste who shared a cell with Ibrahim. It was also addressed, via Skype, by Mr Greste himself.
In other cases of detained foreign nationals, the quiet, diplomatic approach, such as that used for Ibrahim, had been less successful in securing a release than a vocal campaign, Ms Boylan said.
Ibrahim, 19, from Firhouse, Dublin, was arrested while holidaying in Cairo in August 2013. He had attended rallies in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and became caught up in violence when security forces turned on protesters.
He is one of 420 defendants collectively facing charges that include murder, although no evidence has been produced against him.
Supporters have been critical of the Government’s response to Ibrahim’s case. “They say they can’t interfere in the judicial system of another country but the presidential decree is completely separate from the judiciary. It’s a request from one head of state to another,” Ms Boylan said.
Somaia Halawa, who was arrested with Ibrahim and has also been critical, said she didn’t want a fight with the Government. “It’s not a political fight, it’s a human rights issue. We need to all work together,” she said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has repeatedly expressed his concern for Ibrahim’s welfare and said all diplomatic efforts are being made to secure his release.
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