After 54 months in prison Egyptian freelancer Shawkan could now face death penalty

After 54 months in prison Egyptian freelancer Shawkan could now face death penalty
Thursday, 22 March 2018 Written by Rory Peck Trust

Fifty-four months have passed since Egyptian freelance photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was arrested while covering a protest in Cairo. He remains imprisoned and could now face the death penalty. 

Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 while covering clashes between protesters and security forces in Rab'aa Square. For World Press Freedom Day 2014, the Trust highlighted Shawkan’s situation; by then he had been detained for 262 days without charge. He is still in prison, nearly four years on. 

The freelancer is among more than 700 defendants in a political mass trial, arrested in connection with the protest. On 3 March 2018, prosecutors requested the ‘maximum penalty’ for the defendants: death by hanging. This week Shawkan endured his 53rd court hearing. 
 
The Trust has supported Shawkan’s family since his arrest. This week we spoke to his brother, Mohammed. “He is a journalist and is being tried because he was doing his job,” Mohammed said, “The whole world is watching the trial of a journalist. Watching the verdict is the crime, not the journalism.”
 
Last October Shawkan turned 30 – the fourth birthday he has spent in prison. Since January 2018 he has been suffering with anaemia, his brother told us. Though authorities refused a request to move Shawkan to a private hospital, his family have been able to get medication to him.
 
Mohammed described Shawkan’s psychological state as “collapsed”. He last saw him two weeks ago. When asked whether the freelance photojournalist has any messages for the world, his brother said no – the case has dragged on for too long.
 
Amnesty International took up Shawkan’s case as a prisoner of conscience and are calling for urgent action to get the freelancer released. The UN has described his imprisonment as arbitrary. Despite such high-profile support worldwide, the freelancer's situation remains critical.
 
The Trust will continue to support Shawkan’s family and raise awareness of his situation. You too can help to raise awareness by sharing the Freedom for Shawkan Facebook page and tweeting support using the hashtag #FreeShawkan.
 
Shawkan’s work is currently on exhibition in West London and will be on display in Telford next month, thanks to Amnesty International.
 
Photos by Mahmoud Abou Zeid, Shawkan, exhibited at Watermans.

Main image courtesy of the Freedom for Shawkan Facebook page.

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