Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid ‘Shawkan’ completed 700 days in pre-trial detention on 11 July 2015.
Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid ‘Shawkan’ completed 700 days in pre-trial detention on 11 July 2015.wkan
For Shawkan, detention has been renewed without trial procedures, or even prosecution’s questioning.
“The most recent renewal took place in court, without prior court notification that a session was to be held, without informing lawyers, and without prison authorities bringing Shawkan to court,” his lawyer, Karim Abdul Rady, told Daily News Egypt Saturday.
His next trial session is scheduled for 21 July, as his defence plans to present its claim to court.
“Shawkan is facing 12 charges, mainly using violence, belonging to a banned organisation, murder, attempt to murder, inciting chaos in public assembly, obstructing roads, possession of weapon,” Abdul Rady said.
According to him, the case includes nearly 270 co-defendants who are all facing the same accusations as a group, rather than just Shawkan alone. However, he pointed out that the photojournalist’s camera that was with him that day has not been proven in the police report during his arrest.
Shawkan was arrested on 14 August 2013 whilst covering the security forces’ dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya. Foreign reporters arrested at the same time with him were able to leave. Shawkan’s cellmate, Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Al-Shamy, was also eventually released after 10 months.
“This leads to complication of his case, since in that way there is less proof that he is a journalist. But we have submitted our evidence documents to previous courts and will continue too as we hope the current judge will give us chance to hear our arguments,” Abdul Rady added.
The lawyer believes that all charges against Shawkan were fabricated following his arrest. Nonetheless, Shakwan is facing trial before a criminal court division specialised in terrorism. Likewise, acquitted photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada was tried before a ‘terrorism court’.
Judges Hassan Farid and Nagy Shehata, who handle most Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism trials, are in charge of renewing detention in Shawkan’s case, his lawyer claimed.
“He is accused of being a terrorist. He has been punished now for two years, without one single [piece of] evidence. The state has used this system of pre-trial detention to penalise people, knowing they would be acquitted and released if fair trials were held,” Abdul Rady concluded.
The number of detained journalists in Egypt since mid-July 2013 has reached 62, according to a Thursday report by the Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI). Among the oldest arrested journalists are Mahmoud and Ibrahim Abdul Naby Awad from RASSD network, two brothers held at Borg El-Arab prison near to Alexandria.
Arrests have continued in all months that followed until the current month, as the most recent arrest, of CRT journalist Wagdy Khaled, took place on 3 July 2015.
“Most arrests took place in a wave of political cases in that period, and many journalists were accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood,” ANHRI Director Gamal Eid said in comments to Daily News Egypt Saturday.
“They are accused of publishing false information, disrupting public order, and some are facing charges of violence without proof,” Eid continued.
Journalists featured on the list of 62 come from various media institutions, and include well-known local newspapers, channels and websites. Several of them are also members of the Press Syndicate, the legal umbrella for journalists.
A large share of the detained concerns photojournalists, whilst some were arrested at the channels they worked for in raids on offices of the Muslim Brotherhood media following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, like Misr 25 channel.
This comes as the state sought to introduce a new legal text allowing the imprisonment of journalists for publishing crimes, under the new anti-terrorism law to be issued.
“The law is not going to affect those already in prisons, but it will add more to them,” said Eid.
A crisis had erupted last week as journalists objected to Article 33 of the anti-terror law, which states that “anybody who intentionally publishes false news or statements regarding terrorist operations that contradict official state data, shall face a minimum prison sentence of two years”.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb assured journalists that they “were part of the state and would not be jailed”. Negotiations between the Press Syndicate and the government continued over the weekend, after which the government announced the revision of the law.
Journalists demanded the annulment of imprisonment as the government is seeking to replace the penalty of jail with a fine.
Eid said via his official Facebook account on 8 July that the problem was not with Mehleb’s statements. Instead, he said, it was rather “with those journalists who believed and thanked him, who know for a fact that their colleagues lie in jail”.
The Press Syndicate was supposed to host a press conference Saturday to discuss the latest updates on journalists’ detention, but had to postpone it due to an explosion at the nearby Italian Consulate.