UPDATE (08/03/2018): The IFJ is appalled that the photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, alias "Shawkan", is one of the more than 700 defendants in a political mass trial in Cairo for whom the “maximum penalty” – death by hanging – was requested by the prosecution on 3 March, according to reports.
Writing on behalf of 600,000 journalists around the world, the president of the International Federation of journalists, last week addressed a letter to Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, in which he expressed grave concern over the detention of fellow Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as “Shawkan”.
Shawkan, was arrested in Cairo, capital of Egypt, on August 14th, 2013 during an assignment for the now-dissolved British photo agency Demotix, in which he covered police crackdown of protesters on Rabaa Square.
The journalist, who has been behind bars for over four years, is in poor health and suffers from chronic anemia and hepatitis C.
“We are extremely concerned about our colleague’s health, which has steadily deteriorated over the years in jail, said Philippe Leruth, IFJ President. “His condition is serious and he needs urgent medical attention”.
Extraordinarily, two years into his detention, Shawkan was charged with multiple accounts including “damaging national unity”, “terrorising citizens” and “attempted murder of police officers”.
Court proceedings however showed no evidence against him. His colleagues and his employer, who submitted testimonies to support his case, Egyptian journalists and the IFJ are all convinced of his innocence.
“Shawkan is not guilty and should have been freed the day of his arrest, as the two international photojournalists arrested with him were,” added Philippe Leruth. “I therefore urge you Mr. President, to use all the powers at your disposal to ensure Shawkan is freed and reunited with his grieving family as soon as possible”.
There are currently over 20 journalists behind bars in Egypt according to different reports, including Hisham Gaafar, who has been detained since October 2015 for “receiving illegal foreign funds” and whose health condition is also serious; Ismael al-Iskandarani, an eminent reporter and expert on Sinai affairs who was imprisoned for two years without conviction; and Mahmud Hussein, a reporter with Al Jazeera, who was arrested in December last year and charged with “disturbing public security and spreading false news.”
The IFJ has repeatedly called on Egyptian authorities to stop arresting and intimidating journalists for no other reason than covering Egypt’s current events.