Mahmoud Shawkan Prisoner of the Month (May 2016)

Name: Mahmoud Abdel-Shakour Abo Zeid, aka “Shawkan”

Country: Egypt

Age: 28

Current Situation: Served 1000 days in custody, since his arrest on 14 August 2013

The 10th of May marked the completion of 1000 days in detention that has been endured by the Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid- known as “Shawkan”- since his arrest along with a number of Egyptian and foreign photographers from Al-Tayran Street, while covering the Egyptian Interior Ministry’s dispersal of Rabaa Al-Adwyia Sit-in on August 14, 2013.

Shawkan, 29, is an Egyptian photojournalist. He was graduated from Akhbar El Yom Academy “Journalism major” in 2011. He had been trained for six months at Al-Ahram Al-Masaay newspaper in Alexandria while he was still a student. Then he worked as a freelance photojournalist for a number of foreign newspapers.

Shawkan responded to the call made by the interior ministry and published on its official “Facebook” page urging journalists to be present during the break up of Rabaa Al-Adwiya sit-in. Accordingly, he took his own camera equipment and headed to the sit-in in the morning to took part in covering the dispersal incident in his capacity as a photo-journalist.

Nevertheless, Shawkan, together with a number of Egyptian and foreign journalists and photographers, were arrested by the security forces in the early hours of the dispersal process. Moreover, he was subject to a severe physical assault and stripped of all his equipment. He was detained with many others in the Cairo Stadium. All foreign journalists and photojournalists were later released, whereas Shawkan was taken to the First New Cairo Police Station then to Abu Zaabal prison, where he has been held on remand up till now.

Shawkan submitted all papers and certificates that prove his job as a journalist, including a letter from Demotix Agency sent to the Egyptian authorities. This letter shows that Shawkan was working for Demotix Agency that ordered him to cover the dispersal proving that he was just doing his job not participating in the incidents. However, the authorities in Egypt turned a blind eye to such a fact and decided to extend the period of his incarceration.

In September 2013, the Attorney General ordered Shawkan’s imprisonment renewal over the case, known in media as “Rabaa Sit-in Dispersal Incidents”, that carried no. 15899/2013 (Administrative Nasr City), after the prosecution pressed against him charges of “murder, assembly, and joining the Muslim Brotherhood group”. Shawkan was denied due process; as his lawyers were precluded from photocopying or even checking the case’s papers, or attending the investigations’ sessions. He was also deprived from getting to know the dates of some of the investigations and the changes that have taken place without any prior notice. Shawkan’s imprisonment has been automatically renewed for two consecutive years, in a breach of Article 143 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

During this period, Shawkan has suffered several health problems owing to his detention in inappropriate conditions and being deprived from receiving proper medical care. Shawkan suffers from hepatitis, severe anemia, and low blood sugar. His family has submitted at least 17 petitions to the Attorney General for his release due to health reasons, but to no avail.

Throughout the stages of his detention and the prosecution investigations, Shawkan kept repeating that he is a journalist, who does not know the reasons for his detention nor why he has been languishing in jail for this long time, asserting that he just went out of his home, where he was caring for his elderly parents, in order to carry out his job.

What you can do:

1- Write to the Egyptian Public Prosecutor reminding him of his role in protecting the values of justice and seeking truth in addition to the rule of law; noting that: a) pre-tial detention should only be used for strictly specified time, b) the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and c) the imprisonment of Mahmoud Abdel-Shakour Abo Zeid “Shawkan” for more than 1000 days, without being tried or released, damages the reputation of the judicial body, as well as the principles of justice in Egypt.

The Public Prosecutor Office Address: Dar al-Qadha al-Ali, July 26 Street, Ambulance Square, Cairo, Egypt.. Tel: 25743751- 25760468 (Fax).

2- Post a comment on The Egyptian Public Prosecutor’s Facebook page, demanding to free Mahmoud Shawkan

3- Share pictures and information about Mahmoud Shawkan, and send them to newspapers in your country, in order not to be completely forgotten.

4- Write to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at:

5- Post images of Mahmoud Shawkan on your Facebook & Twitter accounts using the hashtag #حريتهم_حقهم

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