The detention of Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan 'disgraceful'

The detention of Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan 'disgraceful'
Egypt's decision to extend the time spent by a photojournalist in pre-trial detention is "disgraceful and a blatant violation of human rights standards", said Amnesty International.
2 min read
18 August, 2015
Protests in Cairo against Shawkan's detention [Anadolu]

An Egyptian photojournalist has had his pre-trial detention extended while his case is referred to the criminal court in what represents "another hefty blow to human right and the rule of law" in Egypt, said Amnesty International.

Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, aged 27, has been held in pre-trial detention for more than two years along with 700 others across the country.

"The decision to extend the detention of Shawkan until the criminal court sets a date for the trial, is disgraceful and a blatant violation of international human rights standards," said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Boumedouha said "it contravened the Egyptian constitution and national law which limits pre-trial detention to an already prolonged period of two years if the detainee is not sentenced within that period".

He argued that this is a sign from the Egyptian authorities that they will do nothing to stop any sign of dissent, even if it means flouting their own laws.

     At least 18 journalists are currently behind bars in Egypt simply for doing their jobs.

Shawkan was arrested on 14 August 2013 while taking pictures at the violent dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in by the Egyptian security forces.

Up to 1,000 people were killed on that day across the country.

The photojournalist was among hundreds of people, including many supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, arrested that day.

Boumedouha argued that he had been taking legitimate photographs as part of his work.

"He is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression, he must be released immediately and unconditionally. All the charges against him must be dropped," said Boumedouha.

Shawkan's lawyers said their ability to prepare their defence had been undermined because they had been denied access to key documents related to the case.

They have submitted an appeal to the Court of Appeal calling for the immediate release of Shawkan as his detention has exceeded the legal limit of two years in pre-trial detention under Egyptian law.

The court is to rule on the appeal within the coming few days.

At least 18 journalists are currently behind bars in Egypt simply for doing their jobs and exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Shawkan, along with 400 others, was detained on charges including belonging to a banned group, (the Muslim Brotherhood which the authorities later declared a "terrorist" organisation), possessing firearms and murder.

Shawkan denied all charges against him during the prosecutor investigations two years ago.