“I have been beaten and tortured for three days under prison disciplinary sanctions,” photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada told the judge during his trial session Saturday.
According to his brother Mohamed, the issue started a week ago. “During our last visit to Ziada in Abu Za’abal prison, authorities harassed us and my brother had demanded to meet an official to complain about it, but his request was denied,” he told Daily News Egypt over the phone the day before the session.
Mohamed said that a verbal quarrel erupted between his brother and a police conscript. He added that in the following days, there were some problems with the visits to other prisoners. Mohamed claimed jail personnel prevented many personal belongings brought by relatives of the detainees from entering.
“The situation became a little chaotic, and so they received a visit Wednesday night in prison by officers who bit them inside their cell,” Mohamed said.
Ziada was among those people and he was to receive additional punishment because the police conscript who fought with him had reported him. However, Mohamed stated that the prosecution officer in charge spared him the penalty, provided he stopped writing about them.
Nonetheless, Ziada quarrelled again with an officer and that resulted in his beating and being sent to prison disciplinary. His brother stated that for a couple of days there was no news about him.
The Cairo Criminal Court’s terrorism division listened Saturday to the defence argument for Ziada, allowing him to step out of the glass cage inside court to question him. “Unlike our expectations, the session went well,” defence lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told Daily News Egypt.
Regarding torture allegations, there were no apparent signs of torture when Ziada stood before the judge. “Therefore we could not file any complaints,” Mokhtar said.
Ziada was questioned by Judge Salah Roshdy about the reasons he was at Al-Azhar University on that day and how he had found out about protests. Ziada answered that he was assigned to the job by Yaqeen Network, where he worked.
“I told the judge that if photojournalism was a crime then why not put all press photographers in the courtroom behind bars,” Mokhtar said. He added that the judge attempted to ask questions about the political orientation of the news network but the defence lawyer intervened to stop the case from going into a “complicated” direction.
“Ziada will not break in front of these attempts. I am sure that while bearing all this he was already thinking about his next piece,” Mohamed said.
Along with another 75 Al-Azhar University students, Ziada is facing charges of illegal protests, setting fire to the university’s Faculty of Commerce and assaulting and resisting security officers. Ziada’s camera was confiscated and he was found in the possession of an empty gas canister he picked up on the day of the events.