From Inside a Cage

From inside the courtroom cage in which he and many other defendants were held, the photographer Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, started posing as a photographer for his friends in the courtroom earlier today. In the photo at top, it looks like he is snapping shots with an Instamatic; in others he imitates holding up a heavy telephoto lens.

Today brought Shawkan to one more hearing, one more in long line of hearings in which the Egyptian court system has repeatedly postponed starting to hold hearings. Thus, once again, it was announced from the bench today that the trial start would be postponed yet again until May 17, one week. It is a Kafka-esque farce, minus any deeper meaning.

Shawkan is one of more than 700 defendants. Taher Abu el-Nasr, a lawyer affiliated with the case, told the Cairo Post last month that he expects the trial to take a long time until a verdict is issued due to the huge number of defendants: “it might take the court 20-30 sessions to only hear the prosecution witnesses; this is something annoying and exhausting to everyone.”
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984 Days in Prison: #FreeShawkan

For the fourth time, the trial for Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the photojournalist known as “Shawkan,” was postponed today, April 23, by an Egyptian court, this time until May 10. He will remain in detention between now and then, and he will pass a grim milestone in two weeks: 1000 days in prison.

[Update: According to one source, a journalist named Mada Masr, “The court delayed the hearing because one of Shawkan’s co-defendants, who is in police custody, was not present in for the trial, said Karim Abdel Rady, a lawyer with the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, who is representing Shawkan.”] The source reports that the co-defendant was not present because the police were detaining the person.

The photo above, credited to Mohamed Meteab, is from the court proceeding today: Shawkan is the smiling face on the left. Other photos from today’s hearing show him smiling the toothy grin that has become familiar to human rights supporters around the world, and other photos show the gritty reality, even when appended to a message of thanks from Shawkan himself, like this one, also from today (Below the fold):
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Another Delay for #Shawkan

UPDATE, March 26, 2016: For the third time, the trial for Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the photojournalist known as “Shawkan,” has been postponed by an Egyptian court, this time until April 23. The court cited the same reason it gave for the first postponement in December and the second one in February: that it does not have the space to accommodate the hearing. Because he was arrested in a widespread government crackdown, which was known as the “Rabaa Sit-in Dispersal,” Shawkan has been included with 737 other individuals. All face similar charges of offenses against public order and national security, violence, murder, attacking security forces and civilians, engaging in armed conflicts, and destroying public facilities.

In February, Shawkan was confined to a “disciplinary cell” for four days, in other words, solitary confinement. His social media accounts describe a tiny cell, six feet by five-and-a-half feet (take a moment and measure that out), a daily slice of bread, a bucket, no blanket. There is a disgusting irony in placing him in this small cell for any length of time, whether one hour or from December till April 23, when the reason for all three court hearing delays has been the lack of space.
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A New Delay for Shawkan Zeid

UPDATE, February 6, 2016: For a second time, the Egyptian court hearing for Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the photojournalist known as “Shawkan,” has been postponed, this time until March 26. The court cited the same reason it gave for the first postponement in December: that it does not have the space to accommodate the hearing. Because he was arrested in a widespread government crackdown, which was known as the “Rabaa Dispersal,” Shawkan has been included with 737 other individuals. All face similar charges of offenses against public order and national security, violence, murder, attacking security forces and civilians, engaging in armed conflicts, and destroying public facilities.

Multiple sources are reporting today that Shawkan has been moved to a “disciplinary cell,” in other words, solitary confinement. His social media accounts describe a tiny cell, a daily slice of bread, a bucket, no blanket. There is a disgusting irony in placing him in a small cell for any length of time, whether one hour or until March 26, when the reason for the two delays has been lack of space.
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A Message from Shawkan

Mahmoud Abu Zeid is a photojournalist whose work you may very well have seen in recent years, as his photographs have appeared in Time magazine, news services throughout Europe, and they were syndicated by Corbis, a major syndicate. (One photo is reprinted below the fold.) He photographed everyday life in Egypt as well as breaking news stories like the protests in Tahrir Square and the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak. His professional name is Shawkan.

Shawkan was arrested in Cairo, Egypt, in a round-up during nation-wide protests on August 14, 2013. He was arrested while doing his job, while taking photos of the protests and the crackdown. It is believed that about 1000 people lost their lives across Egypt in the police actions against the protests that day, and several thousand were arrested, all in the name of stopping the Muslim Brotherhood. Shawkan was arrested in a mass round-up, and he remains just one more face and name in a large crowd: on December 12, he will be a part of a “mass trial of 738 defendants.”

As of today, December 4, 2015, he has spent 842 days in pre-trial detention. Even though his first court session is due to take place on December 12, his lawyer reported to Amnesty International this fall that he had yet to see Shawkan’s case file. Under Egyptian law, there is a two-year cap on pre-trial detention; 842 days is longer than two years.
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