Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid is known professionally as Shawkan. He has been unjustly detained since August 14, 2013.
A contributor to publications such as Time magazine, Die Zeit, Media Group, and the online photo agency, Demotix, Shawkan was covering the violent clashes in Rab'aa Square in Cairo between supporters of ousted President Morsi and security forces when he was arrested with fellow photojournalist Louis Jammes.
Jammes told colleagues that he and Shawkan were beaten by security forces and their cameras taken. They were then herded into the Cairo stadium with protesters and other journalists. Jammes and several other foreign journalists were later released, but Shawkan was not. He was held in the stadium with 47 other prisoners where he says he was systematically beaten by authorities for three days before being transferred to Tora Prison in southern Cairo.
He remained in prison without a charge for close to two years before he was referred to court set to commence on December 12, 2015.
In messages he managed to send from inside his jail cell Shawkan has maintained his innocence: “I’m a photographer, not a criminal.” He also referred to a 45-day detention renewal handed down to him as “a new 45 days of kidnapping.”
Shawkan and the 738 defendants in the case known as the “Rabaa Dispersal” are facing the same charges, which include accusations related to national security, violence, murder, attacking security forces and civilians, engaging in armed conflicts, and destroying public facilities.
He suffers from hepatitis C and anemia, according to his family. In one recent message from his cell Shawkan said: “I hope; here, there is no hope, no color, no lights. Black hole.”
He said he is sharing his cell with 15 others arrested on the same day.
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A Letter from Shawkan in Tora Prison
Mohamed Fahmy Advocates for Shawkan on Egyptian Talk-Show