Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan)

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Mahmoud Abou Zeid, a freelance photographer known as Shawkan, has been detained in Cairo since his arrest in August 2013. On September 8, 2018, a Cairo criminal court convicted Shawkan of murder and being a member of a terrorist group, and sentenced him to five years in prison and five years’ probation, according to news reports. The sentence included time served, his lawyer Karim Abdelrady told CPJ.

On November 12, 2018 the pro-government daily Al-Shorouk reported  that it had obtained a court document that stated Shawkan would be kept in custody for an additional six months. Shawkan’s lawyer told CPJ that the additional sentence is for fines that a prosecutor said Shawkan failed to pay, for unspecified damages during the 2013 protests. The lawyer said he did not know how much the fines were for.

Security forces first detained Shawkan while he was covering clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi during the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Raba'a Al-Adawiya in Cairo, according to news reports. He was initially held in a Cairo stadium with other protesters and foreign correspondents who were released the same day.

Shawkan contributed to the U.K.-based citizen journalism site and photo agency Demotix and the digital media company Corbis. After his detention, Demotix sent a letter to the Egyptian authorities confirming that Shawkan had been covering the clashes for the agency, the photographer's brother, Mohamed Abou Zeid, told CPJ.

In September 2013, the Egyptian general prosecutor's office extended the journalist's pretrial detention, Mohamed, his brother, told CPJ. Mohamed told CPJ in 2014 that Shawkan’s lawyer and the legal team at the Arab Network for Human Rights Information had appealed for his release. The appeal was denied.

On May 14, 2015, Shawkan appeared before a judge for the first time since his arrest, according to news reports. The judge renewed his pretrial detention, according to the Freedom for Shawkan campaign. The journalist, whose lawyer was not present in court, told the judge about his arrest and denied the allegations against him.

In September 2015, after more than two years of pretrial detention, Shawkan’s case was referred to a Cairo criminal court for trial. The photographer was charged with weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder, according to court documents. The trial was ongoing in late 2017, and included more than 700 defendants. Between his 2013 arrest and October 2017, the journalist has had 64 court hearings, including 19 in 2017, according to Journalism Against Torture. His brother told CPJ that scheduled hearings were regularly postponed.

During a trial session on October 8, 2016, the prosecution aired footage of anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012 as evidence against the defendants, Shawkan's lawyer, Taher Abou Nasr, told CPJ. None of the footage shown was of the Raba'a sit-in where Shawkan was arrested.

He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and his health has deteriorated in prison, the journalist's family told CPJ.

In December 2016, Shawkan's lawyer demanded the journalist’s release on health grounds and requested a forensic medical examination, his brother told CPJ. The forensic report, which prosecutors presented during a May 20, 2017 court hearing, said that Shawkan did not suffer from any health conditions and did not qualify for early release, his brother said.

When Shawkan’s father visited him in prison on October 19, 2017, the journalist told him he was suffering from blurry vision, shivers, insomnia, and loss of appetite, Shawkan’s brother told CPJ. Shawkan told his father the prison doctor recommended that he be given a blood transfusion, but his request to be transferred to a hospital was denied.

The journalist was a recipient of CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 2016

Shawkan wrote a letter to mark his 600th day in jail in April 2015. The letter described the abuse he has suffered since his arrest and urged advocacy on behalf of detained journalists in Egypt. In another letter, published on the local news website Mada Masr on September 24, 2017, Shawkan  wrote about how the prison’s policy of banning phones has left him and the other prisoners feeling isolated.

As of late 2018, Shawkan was still detained in Tora prison, his lawyer told CPJ.  

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