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Verdict delayed for Irishman Ibrahim Halawa jailed in Egypt

Ibrahim Halawa has been in an Egyptian jail since 2013
Ed Carty, Press Association

The family of an Irishman jailed in Egypt for four years have accused the county's judiciary of playing with life after the verdict in the case was delayed.

Ibrahim Halawa (21) has been told judgement in the mass trial Muslim Brotherhood protests in August 2013 has been put back until September 18.

The son of a prominent Muslim cleric in Dublin - Sheikh Hussein Halawa - was jailed after being detained in a mosque near Ramses Square in Cairo over the removal of elected president Mohamed Morsi.

Mr Halawa's sister Somaia said the family need time to come to terms with the latest setback.

"It is truly upsetting and heart-breaking to constantly keep having our expectations and hopes shattered into a million pieces," she said.

"It is not just Ibrahim's life that is being played around with but also the entire family's life. We would ask that our family are allowed some time to ourselves during this difficult period."

Mr Halawa was 17 when he was detained and jailed.

Along with scores of others he is accused of murders, bombing, possession of firearms and explosives, arson, violence against police and desecration of Al Fatah Mosque.

His solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Belfast-based human rights legal firm KRW Law, said no specific evidence was introduced in the long-running trial relating to Mr Halawa.

Mr Mackin said the latest delay was "truly devastating" for Mr Halawa and the family.

"Regrettably, this is not the first time the case has been due to conclude when a last minute - unexpected and unjustified decision is taken to delay the case further," he said.

"We are now four years on, with each day and each false dawn having a hugely significant mental and physical impact on our client's health.

"It is not known when this case will ever end. Such irrational and unpredictable decisions cannot be allowed to continue, and in particular when they operate in a vacuum of lawfulness depriving our client of his basic rights."

It is understood no formal explanation was given for the delay but there are unconfirmed reports of references to security concerns and a threatened prison escape by inmates involved in another case.

Mr Halawa is facing the threat of a death sentence if found guilty.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has scheduled a phone call with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for Monday night in a bid to get further guarantees on Mr Halawa's repatriation.

The Egyptian leader previously refused to interfere in the trial following repeated representations from Dublin but said Mr Halawa could be released once a verdict is delivered.

Hearings in the mass trial involving Mr Halawa and 493 others have been adjourned and delayed numerous times over the past four years. The prosecution case ended last month.

He has been tortured and gone on hunger strikes during his imprisonment.

Dublin's Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said work will go on to ensure Mr Halawa's repatriation.

"This is very frustrating for Ibrahim Halawa and for his family, who were expecting some definitive news today, and I fully share that sense of disappointment and frustration at yet another delay in this long-running case," he said.

"Nonetheless, we will be continuing to work in support of Ibrahim and his family and doing everything we can to ensure that he is able to return to Ireland as soon as possible once the trial ends."

The Irish ambassador to Egypt, Damien Cole, was in court for the hearing.

Maya Foa, director of the Reprieve charity which works to prevent human rights abuses, said: "Ibrahim was arrested as a child for the 'crime' of attending a protest and brutally tortured.

"This mockery of justice demonstrates that there is no longer any semblance of due process in Egypt."

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