After 5 years 6 months 18 days: Shawkan released from prison!

Everyone who campaigned for the Egyptian photographer Shawkan over the years, has been waiting for this news for a long time. Today Shawkan was finally released from prison!

1. Shawkan’s arrest

If you are a regular reader of my blog you know Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who is better known under the name “Shawkan”, because this is my fifth post about him. 

Shawkan is a photographer. He is 31 years old and his ordeal started on 14 August 2013. He worked as freelance photographer. On this day he was on an assignment for Demotix. In the morning he went to Rabaa Square to make photos. Supporters of the ousted president Mohammed Morsi had been protesting for weeks and had occupied the place in front of Rabaa al-Adwiya Mosque. They asked for the reinstatement of Mohammed Morsi as president. The police raided this camp on 14 August 2013. 1000 people were killed, thousands were wounded and thousands were arrested. Among those who were arrested was Shawkan who was only doing his job on this day. 

2. Time of trial and judgement

The trial against Shawkan began on 12 December 2015. It was a mass trail 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. You can read more about the trail and its endless postponements in my post Three years of injustice – Freedom for Mahmoud Abu Zeid “Shawkan” and in my post Ongoing injustice for Shawkan. 

After over 70 hearings the trial ended on 29 May 2018, almost 2 1/2 years after it began. The judgement was handed down by the Cairo Criminal Court on 8 September 2018. Shawkan and 214 other defendants were sentenced to five years in prison. They were all arrested on 14 August 2013 and had all already spent more than five years in prison by the time the verdict was announced.

Have a look at my blog post Freedom for Shawkan at last? for more information about the judgement and the time leading to the judgement..

3. After the judgement

Sadly the judgement did not lead to Shawkan’s immediate release, even so he had already spent more than five years in prison.

According to his lawyer Shawkan and the others sentenced to five years in prison had to spend six additional months in prison as a compensation for the damages occurred during the sit-in at Rabaa Square. The persecution decided to carry out the sentence of “physical coercion” instead of asking for payment of the amount and added six more months in prison to Shawkan’s sentence (and the sentence of other prisoners).

One week ago was the 16 February, but Shawkan was not released. @FreeEgyptPress tweeted around 6 pm:

@mohammedelra3y tweeted on 17 February 2019 at around 10 am that the procedure for Shawkan has started, but can take several days to be completed. @FreeEgyptPress gave an update on 18 February around 6 pm and tweeted that he is at the Khalifa police station and will be transferred to Al Haram police station ahead of his release. On 19 February 2019 @MeKassab tweeted: 

4. Shakwan’s release:

Today, 4 March 2019, after 5 years 6 months and 18 days after Shawkan’s arrest he was finally released.

The account @ShawkanZeid tweeted at 3:50 am the photo we have all been waiting for:

The press reports that Shawkan is not unconditionally released, but will be under a strict supervision for five years and will be required to sleep at the police station.

5. The last #SkyForShawkan photos

We started the campaign #SkyForShawkan in September 2016. Shawkan had said several times that he misses the sky in prison. The campaign was initially an idea of Kate (@Beerinwitsout) who sent a tweet on 6 September in which she said: “@ShawkanZeid misses the sky. I took this photo 4him just in England but so want him to see real blue sky soon!”. You can read more about the start of the campaign in my blog post Sky for Shawkan

Over the last 2 1/2 years activist from all over world tweeted photos of the sky using the hashtag #SkyForShawkan to raise awareness for Shawkan’s situation. We continued to do so during the months after the judgement. Since 25 November 2018 we also used the hashtag #Countdown4Shawkan to count down the days until 16 February 2019.

I want to share a last time photos of this campaign which were tweeted over these last months:

Thank you to everyone who joined the #SkyForShawkan campaign.

2 thoughts on “After 5 years 6 months 18 days: Shawkan released from prison!

  1. Thank you for your blogs, for keeping us informed and for collating these beautiful photographs of the sky in so many forms. Looking forward to, hopefully, seeing Shawkans’s photos of the sky.


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