By Sandra Coffey, Galway Independent.
A Galway TD has visited Egypt to campaign for the release of Irish man Ibrahim Halawa, and highlight the importance of trade between Ireland and Egypt.
Independent TD Noel Grealish was the only rural TD to travel to Egypt last week as part of a cross party delegation to Cairo.
The trip came about after an all-party motion was passes in the Dail calling on the Egyptian government to speed up the trial of Halawa, who has been in prison since being arrested, aged 17, during a Cairo protest in 2013.
A motion was then forwarded by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghail to the Egyptian Parliament, who issued an invitation for an Irish delegation to visit the country.
Mr. Halawa (21), from Firhouse, Dublin, has been in custody for the past three and a half years awaiting trial along with close to 400 other detainees.
“We met with Ibrahim in jail,” said Deputy Grealish. “He is being charged en bloc along with the 494 others who were arrested with him. The Egyptian President has said that he cannot take him out of that grouping.”
Deputy Grealish added that the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has given assurances that there will be no more hold ups with the trial. The case was yesterday postponed for the 18th time.
“He also stated that he will issue Ibrahim with a pardon ad release him back to Dublin after the trial. It is hoped he could be home within 4-6 months.”
A number of face to face meetings were also held on issues including communications, agriculture, trade and tourism. Deputy Grealish met with various officials in the Egyptian government, including the Minister for Agriculture.
“I was also there to push through a beef deal that has been negotiated between Ireland and Egypt that will open up beef trade between both countries,” he added.
Beef trade between Ireland and Egypt ceased in 1997 after the outbreak of BSE in Ireland. Prior to the ban, Ireland’s beef trade with Egypt was worth about €254 million.