203 Freed in Egypt; Shawkan Not Among Them

A journalist’s job is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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The “Detained Youth Committee” that was established by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2016 to “look into the conditions of pre-trial detainees arrested in cases related to freedom of expression” gave him on Monday its second list of detainees to release or pardon. A total of 203 names were on the list and today Egypt’s president announced pardons for all 203, according to news agencies.

Mahmoud Abu Zeid (photo at top), an Egyptian photojournalist who goes by the name “Shawkan,” was not one of the 203. His name was not on the list.

The president does not possess the authority to interfere in Egypt’s judicial processes, but he can issue pardons.

Photographs of the happy reunions between the newly released prisoners and their family members started to be published this morning: “Prisoners pardoned by presidency released.” It is the sort of news story that Shawkan would have been reporting with his camera, but his livelihood and more than three years of his life have both been stolen by Egypt.
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Shawkan Is Spared a New Sentence

A journalist’s job is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Mahmoud Abu Zeid, an Egyptian photojournalist who goes by the name “Shawkan,” learned today that his next hearing will be on Tuesday, March 21. And then chaos broke out in the courtroom.

The hearings in the trial of the more than 700 individuals detained in the aftermath of the government’s violent break-up of the Rabaa sit-in protest have unfolded in a logistically trying fashion. After the court’s judges announced the latest postponement, most of the defendants started to chant in unison that the court was unfair, that the session was invalid.

The panel of judges immediately found 700 of the defendants (almost the entire group) guilty of “insulting the judicial system,” and it sentenced each defendant to one year in jail with forced labor added. Shawkan was one of a mere twenty defendants who was not given the new, additional one-year sentence.
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Hope for Shawkan?

A journalist’s job is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Mahmoud Abu Zeid, an Egyptian photojournalist who goes by the name “Shawkan,” learned today that his next hearing will be on Saturday, February 25, and that the court will inspect his medical records.

As the hearings in the trial of the more than 700 individuals detained in the aftermath of the government’s violent break-up of the Rabaa sit-in protest unfold, every so often several detainees are released for “medical reasons.” Shawkan’s deteriorating health began to qualify him for a release under medical grounds at least two years ago, but his detention continues, three-and-a-half years after his arrest.

Perhaps the news that medical tests were ordered is the break in Shawkan’s story that he and his international community of supporters have long waited for.

(The photo at the top is the most recent cover of the United Nations Association – UK’s magazine. Shawkan is on the cover of its “Facts Still Matter” issue, which was published in December 2016.)
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