State jet may bring Ibrahim Halawa to Ireland

The Government is considering using the government jet to bring home Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa from Egypt when he is released from jail.

State jet may bring Ibrahim Halawa to Ireland

Several options to ensure a speedy return of the Dubliner are being examined, including the State paying for a commercial flight or bringing him home on the government Learjet.

The options were being discussed with Mr Halawa’s family, a government spokesman added.

Mr Halawa was acquitted this week of all charges relating to involvement in mass protests in Cairo. The 21-year-old spent four years in prison there without being charged.

The spokesman said: “No definite decision has been made either way. There are a variety of ways. A commercial flight or a more efficient way. The priority is to ensure he is released.”

He also “no formal deal” had been done with the Egyptian government or when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke by phone with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi earlier this year.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs would regard this as a result for campaigning and lobbying. The issue would have been raised repeatedly at an unprecedented level by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the outcome is welcome.”

The Government has said Mr Halawa’s formal release after his acquittal could take a number of days. An Egyptian government appeal is not expected, say sources in Iveagh House.

Mr Halawa was arrested during a 2013 protest in Cairo which was in support of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted from power in a military coup.

However, the hearing of Mr Halawa’s case was delayed 28 times before his legal team were finally given permission to defend him.

A government spokesman also said he imagined the Government would pay for the costs to bring the Irishman home, whichever decision or way was used to get him out of Egypt.

Mr Halawa’s three sisters, Somaia, Fatima and Omaima were also arrested at the 2013 protest but later released on bail and returned to Dublin. All three, who were tried in absentia, were also acquitted this week by the Cairo court.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday agreed to legislation for a new charge or penalty for using excess amounts of water. The legislation also includes measures to refund over €170m to households who previously paid bills, after an agreement and recommendations by an Oireachtas Committee earlier this year.

The energy regulator will now be asked to decide the sanction or fine for water wastage, which will be set at 1.7 times the normal level of usage.

Under the new legislation — which the Government hopes to pass through the Dáil and Seanad this term —water usage will be monitored in households from 2018. In January 2019, households will receive notification if they are using above the new threshold level.

The legislation will be published this week.

The Government is expected to consult with Fianna Fáil about whether the government support partners are in agreement on the new system, after previous rows between both parties on water.

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