Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zaid, known as Shawkan, was allowed to speak to the judge during Saturday’s court session. Shawkan told him that he is a photojournalist with no affiliations whatsoever, and also said that his health is deteriorating, Shawkan’s brother Mohamed told Daily News Egypt.
Cairo Criminal Court adjourned on Saturday the trial of 739 defendants in the case known as “Rabaa dispersal” to 10 December. The defendants in the case include Shawkan and several Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Shawkan’s lawyer Karim Abdel Rady told Daily News Egypt that the photojournalist’s defence team insisted that Shawkan be given a chance to speak during the session. Shawkan told the judge that his health is severely deteriorating. Abdel Rady said that a report by the prison’s doctor had arrived to the court but will be examined later.
Abdel Rady further added that the trial was adjourned to 10 December to examine the remaining evidence in the case, and that one detainee was released for having cancer.
Shawkan’s brother Mohamed told Daily News Egypt that Shawkan was transferred from his cell in Tora Prison to another one in October. Mohamed said that Shawkan’s cell in Tora included 12 other prisoners; however, the current one includes 18 prisoners. He further added that Shawkan will be denied medication until the court examines the prison’s report.
Shawkan was arrested on 14 August 2013 during the dispersal of mass protests at Rabaa Al-Adaweyya. He was arrested among other journalists who were later released, making him the only journalist behind bars from the dispersal. Demotix, a journalistic organisation Shawkan used to work for, sent the required documents proving that Shawkan was assigned to cover the sit-in dispersal; however, his detention continues.
The protesters at Rabaa Al-Adaweyya were demonstrating against the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, by the Egyptian Armed Forces. International rights organisations described the dispersal as the largest mass massacre in modern history.
The photojournalist’s detention is considered unlawful, as he has exceeded two years in pre-trial detention, which doesn’t comply with Egypt’s penal code. The defendants in the case are facing charges of vandalism, attempted murder, planning an armed insurrection, belonging to the outlawed Brotherhood, among several other charges.
Local and international campaigns called for the immediate release of Shawkan. Egypt was also severely criticised over its crackdown on journalists, particularly after the Rabaa sit-in dispersal in 2013.