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- Updated: 5th October 2016
Question No. 321
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will increase efforts to secure the release of a person (details supplied) from prison in Egypt in view of their recent decision to refuse visitors in case the visits are being used by authorities to delay the trial process; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Thomas Pringle.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 4th October, 2016.
Ref No: 28488/16
I propose to take the following questions together 321, 322, 323, 327 and 328.
The case of this citizen remains a high priority for me and the Government. The Government is continuing to use every possible opportunity to underline our concerns about this case to the Egyptian Government, and also with the EU.
I met with Foreign Minister Shoukry last week in New York where I highlighted my concerns at the repeated delays in the court proceedings and reinforced the Government’s support for the recent Decree 140 application made by this citizen’s lawyers. Both I and An Taoiseach have communicated our support for this application in writing to Minister Shoukry and President el-Sisi respectively.
As has been previously reported to the House, An Taoiseach has been in direct contact on a number of occasions with President el-Sisi of Egypt about this case, underlining the Government’s concerns about the continuing detention of this young man, who has been in prison for over three years now without having been convicted of any crime, and who is part of a group trial that has been adjourned on fourteen occasions.
At the last hearing (29 June), the trial was adjourned until early October following an application by defendants for an expert review of the audio-visual evidence in this case. It was originally anticipated that a technical hearing connected to the audio-visual evidence review would take place on 2 October. However the hearing did not proceed as the 2nd of October was designated in recent days as the opening day of the Hijra (Islamic New Year) Feast, and a public holiday.
The Court Office has indicted that the next hearing date is likely to be 12 November and we are awaiting confirmation of this date through official channels. On Sunday last, 2 October, I spoke directly to Egypt’s Ambassador to Ireland, Soha Gendi expressing my concern about further delays and underlined the Government’s strong desire to see this citizen returned to Ireland as a matter of urgency. My officials are continuing to work closely with this citizen’s family and with his lawyers in Dublin and Cairo.
The Taoiseach and I stand ready to further engage with the Egyptian Government as and when appropriate, in line with our key focus of securing this citizen’s best interests; this means continuing our determined efforts to see him released by the Egyptian authorities at the earliest possible opportunity and, in the meantime, providing consular support for his welfare while he remains in detention.
All of the sustained and focused actions that have been taken by my Department throughout this case have been aimed at furthering these two objectives, and importantly, avoiding any action that could be counterproductive or detrimental to this citizen’s best interests.
Significant resources in Cairo and in Dublin continue to be deployed in the provision of consular assistance in this case and my officials are in close contact with both the citizen’s family and their legal representatives.
To date, the Egyptian authorities have been cooperative in allowing regular access by Ireland’s Embassy in Egypt to this citizen for the purpose of conducting consular visits. While the Ambassador travelled to the prison last week, on that occasion the citizen declined the opportunity of a visit. We are aware of the reports of this citizen’s medical condition and any such concerns on his behalf have been promptly raised by the Embassy with the relevant authorities, most recently on Thursday, 29 September. The occasion of prison visits provide an important opportunity for the Embassy to discuss with the citizen any issues relating to his health and well-being and to raise any concerns directly with the prison authorities. I therefore regret that this citizen declined the visit last week.