Freedom for Shawkan at last?

If you are a regular reader of my blog  you know the Egyptian photographer Mahmoud Abu Said who is also called “Shawkan”. I have written three blog posts about him over the past years. The first one in August 2016 “Three years of injustice – Freedom for Mahmoud Abu Zeid “Shawkan”. The second blog post in September 2016 about a new campaign “Sky for Shawkan” and the last one in December 2017 to mark the second anniversary of the beginning of the trial against Shawkan “Ongoing Injustice for Shawkan“.

He is currently still in prison, but there are some new developments and I hope that this will be my last blog post about Shawkan. 

1. When will freedom come for Shawkan?

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Picture of Shawkan by Assem Trivedi

a) Shawkan is an Egyptian photographer. He was arrested more than five years ago on 14 August 2013 at Rabaa Square, Egypt. He was on this day on an assignment as photographer for Demotix and was arrested while he was making photos of the protest.

You can read more about the protest and his story in my previous blog posts, in particular my first one from August 2016. 

b) It took more than two years from his arrest until the begin of the trial against Shawkan. 12 December 2015 was the first trial date against him and 738 other defendants. Shawkan was the only journalist in the trial. Other defendants were participants in the protest, some belong to the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The trial went over 70 hearings and ended almost 2 1/2 years after it began on 29 May 2018. Shawkan had been charged with 24 offences, including murder, “illegal gathering” and other violence related charges. In the hearing on 3 March 2018 the public prosecutor asked for the death penalty for  all defendants, including Shawkan.

Even after the last trial date the waiting and the uncertainty continued. Originally the judgement against all defendants was announced for 30 June. The court delayed the ruling and said that all defendants could not be transferred to the court due to “security concerns”. 28 July was set as a new date for the judgement. Shawkan still feared that he might be sentenced to death. Mona Eltahawy, a prominent Egyptian human rights activist, tweeted two days before the judgement date:

On 28 July the court sentenced 75 defendants to death. According to BBC the Grand Mufti in Egypt must be consulted whenever the death sentence is applied. Luckily Shawkan was not among these 75 defendants, but he had to wait for more than one further month to hear the verdict against him.

c)  On 8 September 2018 the Cairo Criminal Court handed down the complete judgement:

  • 75 defendants were sentenced to death (as already announced in July 2018)
  • 47 defendants were sentenced to life in prison
  • five defendants had died during the legal proceedings.
  • 374 defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison
  • 23 defendants were sentenced to 10 years in prison
  • 215 defendants were sentenced to five years in prison.

Shawkan belongs to those who were sentenced to five years in prison. Shawkan and the other 214 defendants who were sentenced to five years in prison were all arrested on 14 August 2013 and have all already spent more than five years in prison.

All sentences can be challenged by appeal.

d) Today, more than three weeks after the judgement Shawkan is still in prison. Shawkan’s lawyer Karim Abdelrady tweeted on 8 September that Shawkan might not be unconditionally released but might stay under “police observation” for five years, meaning he will have to appear at a police station every day at sunset and probably also spent the night at the police station. About a week ago his lawyer tweeted that the “verdict had not reached” the prison yet and that Shawkan is therefore still not released.

The judgement as such is a travesty of justice. Shawkan did not commit any crime. He only did his job and took photos at a protest. But that this judgement has not even been implemented against Shawkan and that he is still behind bars is outrageous.

2. Please continue to campaign for Shawkan

As in my previous posts, I also would like to ask you in this one to continue to campaign for Shawkan. He has already spent more than five years in prison. He should not have spent one single day there, but in any case he should now be released immediately and unconditionally.

Please continue to write to the Egyptian authorities and tweet about him using the hashtag #FreeShawkan.

We started more than two years ago the social media campaign #SkyForShawkan and asked supporters to share on Twitter photos of the sky using the hashtag #SkyForShawkan. We did this, because Shawkan said in a letter that he misses the sky in prison and we wanted to raise awareness about his situation. Please also continue to support this campaign until he is free and can see the sky himself.

3. New #SkyForShawkan photos

I want to end this post with a selection of new #SkyForShakwan photos. Again I am grateful to everyone who allowed me to use their photos. They were taken all over world. Many of them were taken in different parts of Europe, but there are also photos which were taken in Africa (Uganda), in India and Iran, in USA and Canada and in South America (Chile). I hope you like the photos:

 

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