Write for Rights at UCV - Dec 11, 2016

1000+ days in jail for taking a photo

It was tense in the centre of Cairo on 14 August 2013. Demonstrators, angry that the government had thrown the former president out of office, filled a public square. Police were armed with teargas, bullets and even tanks.

In the middle of it all was Mahmoud Abu Zeid, better known as Shawkan. The photojournalist was doing his job: taking photos of the mayhem around him.

Suddenly violence erupted. “It was like a Hollywood movie,” said Shawkan. “It felt like we were in the middle of a war.” Except the bullets were real. The teargas was real. And the tanks descending on protests across Egypt were real. The security forces killed 1,000 people that day.

When police found out that Shawkan is a journalist, they grabbed him and tied his hands together with plastic cables that cut through his skin, bloodying his wrists. They punched him and used a belt to whip him. At one point, someone snapped a belt buckle across his eyes.

For taking photos, Shawkan was arrested, tortured and jailed. The many charges against him include “disturbing public peace” and “joining a criminal gang”. His trial is ongoing. If he is found guilty, he could be sentenced to death.

Today Shawkan is in Cairo’s Tora Prison. It is known for its terrible conditions. And although he has Hepatitis C, he isn’t getting the medical care he needs.

It’s been three years since Shawkan was jailed. When he appeared in court in May, he told the judge: “Taking pictures isn’t a crime.” He’s right. Urge Egypt to drop all charges against Shawkan and free him immediately.

Articles 5 & 9, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

No one shall be subjected to torture. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest.

Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Please write to:

Nabil Sadek
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Madinat Al-Rihab
New Cairo, Egypt

Start your letter with:
Dear Mr. Sadek,

Please send a copy of your letter to:

His Excellency Motaz Munir Zahran
Ambassador for the Arab Republic of Egypt
454 Laurier Avenue East
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6R3

Begin or end your letter with this request

Ask him to drop all charges against Shawkan and release him without delay.

Write in your own words

Describe who you are and what concerns you about the ongoing detention of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, or Shawkan.

Show Shawkan he’s not alone

Write or tweet messages of support for Shawkan. He might like to know what freedom of expression means to you.

Free Shawkan
Ahmed Abu Seif
211 E. Ohio St. Apt #2523
Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA

Twitter: @ShawkanZeid
(use the hashtag #FreeShawkan)

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