Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan transferred to solitary confinement, hearing postponed

Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan transferred to solitary confinement, hearing postponed
Mahmoud Abu Zeid, arrested during the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in 2013, has been transferred to disciplinary solitary confinement, while his hearing has again been postponed.
2 min read
08 February, 2016
Shawkan's detention has been condemned by human rights organisations [Anadolu]

Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, has been transferred to "disciplinary" solitary confinement, 905 days into his pretrial detention, according to the Facebook page Freedom for Shawkan.

The new cell is reportedly tiny, with no access to air, water, light, food, or warm clothes.

Shawkan's hearing was also postponed to 26 March after the court cited a lack of space to accommodate the session.

The young photojournalist was arrested in Cairo on 14 August 2013, while photographing the security forces' violent dispersal of a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

He is facing charges of possessing weapons, attempted murder, illegal assembly and terrorising citizens. He is on trial with 740 defendants, including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie.

Shawkan contracted Hepatitis C during his detention, besides suffering from malnourishment and anemia due to hunger strikes. But prison authorities have reportedly denied him access to essential medication.

The arrest and continued detention of Shawkan have been widely condemned by local and international human rights organisations, which have again called for his immediate release.

Said Boumedouha, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, said Shawkan was a "prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression", calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

"Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed its concern over the Egyptian authorities' routine use of pretrial detention as a means of punishment contrary to international standards which specify that such detention should be an exceptional  precautionary measure," Boumedouha said in an open letter addressed to the Egyptian public prosecutor in December.

Jason Stern, a senior Middle East and North Africa Research Associate at the  Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said that the Egyptian government's treatment of Shawkan had been "one outrage after the other".

"He should never have been arrested for doing his job in the first place, he should never have been held for over two years without a trial, and now whatever justice he can get is being delayed yet again," he added.

Shawkan's lawyers have submitted an appeal to the Court of Appeal calling for his immediate release, as his detention has exceeded the legal limit of two years in pre-trial detention.