Egypt: After Serving Three Years in Pretrial Detention, ANHRI Reiterates its Demand to Implement the Law and Release Photojournalist Mahmoud Shawkan

Cairo: 8 August, 2016

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday August 9, Cairo Criminal Court will be reviewing a new hearing of the case publicly known as “Raba’a Dispersal”, in which photojournalist Mahmoud Abdel-Shakour Abou Zeid, one of the recipients of Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ)’s 2016 International Press Freedom Awards, is accused. Abou Zeid has been held on remand since his arrest on the 14th of August, 2013, when he was carrying out his work during the dispersal of the sit-in staged by the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters in Raba’a al-Adawiya Square, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said.

Abou Zeid, aka “Shawkan”, is facing 12 different charges whose penalties may reach to death. Most prominent of which are murder, attempted murder, participating in a gathering, and joining the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group.

The case dates back to 14 August 2013, when the photojournalist headed to the place where the MB supporters were setting their sit-in in order to cover its dispersal process announced by the Egyptian authorities, upon a work order assigned to him by Demotix Agency which he was working for. Shawkan was randomly arrested together with a number of foreign journalists who were covering the incidents believing they would be in the safe side. Following their arrest, the foreign journalists were released; whereas Shawkan had been detained- after seizing his camera equipment- for a whole day with hundreds of people in Cairo stadium before being referred to New Cairo police department, where he was subjected to torture and mistreatment. Also, the accusations, over which he appeared before the Public Prosecution, were trumped-up against him. And after being interrogated without informing his lawyers, the prosecution ordered Shawkan’s pretrial detention, and since then he has been remanded in prison.

Despite the fact that Shawkan has exceeded the two-year maximum period of pretrial detention determined in Article 143 of Egypt’s Code of Criminal Procedure, the Public Prosecution refused to respond to ANHRI’s lawyers’ demands to release him, and turned a blind eye to the implementation of the law that makes his release obligatory because of the annulment of the preventive detention order issued against him. The photojournalist was then brought to trial while he was on remand. The same matter was repeated when his lawyers submitted a memorandum to the head of the Court of Appeal demanding law enforcement and their client’s release, however, their request was disregarded as it was ignored before the Criminal Court that is reviewing the case.

Shawkan, who will be turning 3 years in pretrial detention on the 14th of this August, is suffering from [Hepatitis] Virus C and in need of medical care that is not available in Tora Prison where he is being detained as he is not receiving proper medication on a regular basis, which led to the deterioration of his health condition.

Pretrial detention has been used as a punitive measure and an alternative to administrative detention as well as a means to silence journalists and opinion makers. There are not any evidences that may convict Shawkan, nevertheless, he has already been punished by serving three years in pretrial detention, and he is still being punished; as it is expected that the trial in which 739 defendants are prosecuted will be prolonged. Even if he was declared innocent, he has actually received punishment”, ANHRI believes.

ANHRI calls for swift implementation of law and justice achievement. It also demanded to release the photojournalist who is being languished behind bars without any charges except holding a camera and doing his job.