he Tora Prison administration prevented the family of detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abo Zaid “Shawkan” from visiting and bringing in food to give to their son Monday without providing any clear reasons for their decision, according to the Facebook page ‘Freedom for Shawkan’.
A high-ranking police officer told Shawkan’s parents that no visits will be allowed “unless he behaves” in an attempt to provide a clear justification for the order preventing visitation.
The prison administration further inspected the photojournalist cell in a rough, inhumane way with no regard for the detainee’s comfort or dignity. So far his parents cannot get any information about his status. The family confirmed Shawkan’s psychological and health conditions are continuously deteriorating behind the bars of the “Tora graveyard”, according to the statement.
The statement concluded by holding the interior ministry officials responsible and called on journalists worldwide to stand in solidarity and support them in saving Shawkan.
Earlier in February, the administration transferred Shawkan to solitary confinement when he was purportedly accused of having a mobile phone in his cell, an accusation Shawkan reportedly denied. He was returned back to his cell after spending four days alone.
During that incident, political activists expressed their concern for Shawkan’s wellbeing since he has Hepatitis C and requires medical care; his time in solitary confinement will be detrimental to his health.
The officer insisted on punishing him even when another prisoner admitted that the mobile phone belongs to him and not Shawkan.
Shawkan is one of the prominent political detainees who is still imprisoned under charges not punishable by law. He was arrested in his work as a photojournalist covering various events.
Many sectors worldwide showed their full solidarity for his case. For about two years and half, several local and international NGOs, public figures, political activists, and social media users have called on Egyptian authorities to release him. Further negligence was the only response from the Egyptian state and the Ministry of Justice.
Shawkan has been in detention since 14 August 2013 after he was arrested while covering the notorious dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in. He completed 900 days behind bars on 31 January. The photojournalist has spent over 700 days in pre-trial detention, for which the maximum period is set at two years, according to the Penal Code.