Spending three years in prison without a trial or a judgement, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as “Shawkan”, now faces the risk of the death penalty. The cause of this inhuman punishment: photography. The protest that took place on the 14th of August in 2013, to show support for the overthrown president Muhammad Mursi, lead to violence. Mahmoud was there, taking pictures of how security forces used tear gas and live ammunition against demonstrators, which in the end led to hundreds of demonstrators being arrested.
Shawkan is now on trial along with 738 other people including the leaders of the protest, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned and labeled a “terrorist organization”. The prosecutor has indicted that those arrested “belong to a banned group” (referring to the Muslim Brotherhood), as well as suggested that they had committed crimes such as “murder”, “destruction of private and public property” and “possession of firearms”, without determining individual criminal responsibility for crimes. If Shawkan is convicted, he risks the death penalty. When he finally got the opportunity to speak at a proper hearing on 21st of May, he said directly to the judge: “taking photographs is not a crime.”
Shawkan later said that he was brutally beaten after his arrest and how he and the others who were captured sat locked in a van without food, water and fresh air for over eight hours when it was 30 degrees outside. Shawkan’s remand period has long since expired, and even though he suffers from Hepatitis C, he has not had any access to care in custody. Miscarriage of justice continued on 26th of March 2016, at a Cairo court hearing, an official from the public prosecution directed nine phony charges against Shawkan. Before the trial, Shawkan’s lawyers were denied access to key documents related to the case, including the charges sheet.
Amnesty urges to drop all charges against Mahmoud Abu Zeid and release him immediately and unconditionally as he is detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Amnesty also want to provide Mahmoud Abu Zeid with any medical attention he may require, pending his release.
Shawkan should never have been arrested in the first place and should be free to peacefully practice his work as a photojournalist, guaranteed by his right to freedom of expression.
Join us this Thursday and demand that the current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stand up for the freedom of expression and to stand by his own words, that there is “unprecedented freedom of expression in Egypt”. Skawkan is a prisoner of conscience, who has been behind bars for over two years solely for peacefully doing his work as a journalist, and it is time that he is freed.
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