NEW YORK – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary detention of Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, best known as “Shawkan,” and calls on the government of Egypt to immediately release him. Shawkan, a freelance photographer, was arrested on August 14, 2013 while covering violent clashes between protesters and Egyptian security forces, at the Rab’a al-Adaweya Square in Cairo. Shawkan has been detained without charges for more than two years now.
“Imprisoning journalists for years without charges is among the most repressive methods used by dictatorial governments like Egypt. Shawkan is one of many journalists who are being arbitrarily held behind bars simply for practicing a profession that is demonized by the Sisi regime. He should be released immediately and his case should be dismissed,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Freedom of the press is virtually nonexistent in Egypt and the situation could get worse. A newly enacted counterterrorism law expanded the government’s power to crack down on dissent,” concluded Halvorssen.
On August 16, 2015, the prosecutor referred Shawkan’s case to a criminal court, but no trial date has been scheduled as of yet. This detention exceeds the two-year limit for pre-trial detention as provided in Article 143 of the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code. Shawkan’s lawyers do not know the charges against him because they were denied access to the official documents related to his case. In an April 2015 letter he wrote from Tora prison, Shawkan described the degrading treatment he has been subjected to since his arrest in 2013.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.