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This Irish Teenager Could Face The Death Penalty For Protesting Against The Egyptian Government

Ibrahim Halawa has been in prison in Egypt since his family were arrested during 2013 protests while on holiday.

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Halawa had gone to Egypt on holiday with his sisters Omaima, 20, Somaia, 27, and Fatima, 22.

On 17 August 2013, the family joined demonstrators in Cairo protesting against the ousting of former President Mohammed Morsi by the Egyptian military. The protesters were also demonstrating against the killing of over 800 people in Rabaa Square by police three days before.

Halawa and his family were arrested while seeking refuge in the al-Fath Mosque in Cairo along with more than 100 other wounded and injured protesters.

While Halawa was first sent to the notorious Tora prison following his arrest, his sisters were held in a separate facility.

Halawa's sisters were eventually released in November 2013, but he has been kept in adult custody for two years. He is still awaiting a court trial in Egypt, which has been postponed eight times.

Since his arrest, Halawa's case has been supported by a number of human rights groups, including Reprieve and Amnesty International. Prominent Irish politicians have also lobbied the Egyptian government for his release.

According to Reprieve, Halawa faces a trial with 493 other protesters detained with him in Wadi el Natrun prison, most of whom are charged with "attending an illegal protest" and accused of "causing death and criminal damage ... despite the total lack of evidence linking them to these crimes".

"It is a disgrace that Ibrahim – a teenager who has committed no crime – is still languishing in the most horrific conditions, two years after his arrest, and facing a potential death sentence," Maya Foa, head of Reprieve's death penalty team told BuzzFeed News.

"His mass trial alongside 493 others is a mockery of justice. He is being illegally tried as an adult, and the group have barely been able to present a defence in a year of hearings.

"It's clear that the Egyptian authorities have no intention of seeing justice done in his case. The Irish government and other countries should be pushing for his immediate release, and an end to the terrible oppression the last two years have seen in Egypt."

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Halawa's sister Khadija told BuzzFeed News that he had developed a number of health issues since his arrest.

"He told us he had heart problems, and that he was finding it more difficult to breathe," she said. "The cell he's in, people are squashed tightly together so there's not much air to breathe."

Additionally, she claims Halawa was refused medical treatment for his now dysfunctional hand, which was punctured by a bullet during the protests.

Khadija claims that the prison lacks an adequate water supply and sanitation facilities such as toilets.

"He said he's very lucky to even have a cup of water in his cell," she said. "They have no showers in their room, and very little water available to them.

"He thinks the prison is designed to mentally break the prisoners."

"He had been beaten in the prison when he was first put in there," she said. "It was something that most prisoners were subjected to when they enter.

"The difference [in his prison] is they use some sort of metal sticks that don't leave marks. Ibrahim said that he had been beaten with these sticks once. He couldn't talk about it much because the guards were watching us."

Khadija also told BuzzFeed News that the family were usually only allowed to speak with Ibrahim for "a few minutes a day". She said that it was only on their most recent visit, earlier this month, that they were able to physically touch him.

"It was the first time in two years that I hugged and kissed him," she said. "The whole time I saw him he just held my hand and didn't let go."

Attempts to contact a spokesperson for the Egyptian embassy in London were not successful.

Correction

BuzzFeed News spoke with Halawa's older sister, Khadija Halawa. An earlier version of this post misstated we had spoken with his sister Somaiya.

Hussein Kesvani is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

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