Written answers

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Human Rights Issues

Photo of Anne FerrisAnne Ferris (Wicklow, Labour)
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136. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will recommend to the Government to invite the European External Action Services to oversee the detention of an Irish citizen (details supplied) and any Egyptian trial that may happen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45541/15]

Photo of Anne FerrisAnne Ferris (Wicklow, Labour)
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137. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will request the Egyptian authorities to allow Irish family members of a person (details supplied) to accompany Irish Embassy officials on their visits to the Egyptian prison where this Irish citizen is detained as a similar arrangement was facilitated for the family members of an Australian journalist detained under similar long-term circumstances and subsequently returned to Australia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45542/15]

Photo of Anne FerrisAnne Ferris (Wicklow, Labour)
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138. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will confirm that no trial process for an Irish citizen (details supplied) has actually commenced in Egypt and in that respect any action taken by the Irish Government now may not be viewed as an interference in a foreign judicial process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45543/15]

Photo of Anne FerrisAnne Ferris (Wicklow, Labour)
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139. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has examined all options for seeking the extradition of a person (details supplied) to stand trial here, given the extraordinary long period of pre-trial detention already sanctioned by the Egyptian authorities, if he has already formally made a request under rule 140 of the Egyptian presidential code for the deportation of this Irish citizen to stand trial here, if he has issued frequent reminders to the Egyptian Government regarding the urgent need for a response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45544/15]

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 to 139, inclusive, together.

My Department is exploring every avenue to try and secure the release of this citizen and will continue to bring all of our influence to bear on his behalf through the appropriate channels. Ultimately, the decision to release him will be made solely by the Egyptian authorities. Irrespective of any views regarding the fairness or appropriateness of any arrest abroad, the reality is that where an Irish citizen is charged with an offence under the law of a foreign country, it is the foreign law that applies and it is the relevant foreign court which decides matters such as bail and release.

All actions taken in this case are considered in light of the Government’s clear objectives. First, to see our citizen released by the Egyptian authorities so that he can return to his family and his studies in Ireland, and second to provide consular support for his welfare while he remains in detention. The considered approach and sustained action that has been taken by my Department to date in this case has been to further these objectives, and most importantly to avoid any action that could be counterproductive or detrimental to his best interests.

I have engaged closely with the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, Ms. Federica Mogherini, in regard to this citizen’s detention and our actions are both carefully considered and closely coordinated. The Government’s Embassy in Cairo is also in frequent contact with the European External Action Service and other European delegations in Egypt.

My Department retains the flexibility to adapt its approach as and when that may be required, and I will continue to cooperate closely with the relevant stakeholders.

The matter raised in regard to visits was dealt with privately between my Department and this citizen’s family at a meeting last week. It would not be appropriate to publicly address matters relating to the consular assistance provided to a citizen in public.

I can confirm that the citizen’s trial has indeed begun, with ten adjournments so far. While the stage of substantive hearings has not yet commenced, the case is considered to be in process, as would also be the case in the Irish judicial system. I have expressed my deep dissatisfaction at the lengthy adjournments to both Foreign Minister Shoukry and Ambassador Gendi, and will continue to intervene on this citizen’s behalf at the appropriate times and in the appropriate ways.

As both I and the Taoiseach have reported previously to the House, an application for this citizen’s release under the Presidential Decree/Law 140 was made in February of this year by the citizen’s Egyptian lawyer. That application was formally supported by the Irish Government by way of diplomatic note and has been followed up on in subsequent meetings with Egyptian officials. The Egyptian authorities are in no doubt as to the Government’s desire to see this citizen released at the earliest possible opportunity.

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