CAIRO, Sept 19 – An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa after four years in jail on accusations he participated in clashes with police in August 2013, a judicial official said. Halawa, who has an Egyptian background, was arrested in Cairo after the clashes between police and supporters of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi who were protesting his July 2013 ouster by the military.
It was not immediately clear whether he also has Egyptian citizenship. Prosecutors had said the clashes led to the deaths of 44 people, the official said. The court also acquitted three of Halawa’s sisters, co-defendants in the same case who were released while on trial in November 2013 before they travelled back to Ireland. The Irish government welcomed the ruling.
“I wholeheartedly welcome this conclusion to what has been an extraordinarily protracted case. I expect he will be released as soon as possible and can return home to his family. The Government will facilitate his return home at the earliest opportunity,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in a statement.
The court acquitted a total 52 defendants in the case which began in July 2014, including Halawa and his sisters, according to the official. But of the 403 other defendants, 43 were sentenced to life in prison, 17 to 15 years in jail, 67 to 10 years, and 216 to five years, the official added.
Two juveniles were sentenced to 10 years in prison, while six others were sentenced to five years, the official said. Amnesty International said Halawa and the others were subject to “a grossly unfair mass trial”. The London-based human rights group called for those who received sentences “to be re-tried in line with international due process standards or released”.
It accused the court of having “relied entirely on unsound reports by security forces and investigations conducted by the National Security Agency as a basis for the convictions”. Amnesty said its conclusions were based on its analysis of the cases, and after speaking with at least five lawyers working on the case.
Following Morsi’s overthrow, Egyptian authorities carried out a crackdown that killed hundreds of protesters who supported him. Since then, courts have issued hundreds of death sentences against Morsi supporters, but many have appealed and won new trials. Morsi and other top figures of his Muslim Brotherhood movement have also been put on trial. — AFP