Egypt: Release Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid

Egypt: Release Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid

Mahmoud Abu Zeid

Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, has now spent over 700 days in a small cell in Egypt's infamous Tora prison. On September 23, 2015, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree granting pardons to 100 people including Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and several unlawfully imprisoned activists. Although PEN Center USA welcomes the gesture, the list of those released unfortunately did not include Mahmoud Abu Zeid, well-known bloggers Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Douma, youth activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, human rights defender Mahienoor Elmasry, or detained student Mahmoud Hussein.

Shawkan was arrested while photographing the violent dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013, for citizen journalism website and photo agency Demotix, despite allegedly having all his papers and press card in hand at the time. He is only one of dozens of Egyptian journalists arrested since the former President, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted on July 3, 2013. Six have been killed since then.

Although Shawkan's detention is illegal, he was recently charged with "possessing firearms" and murder. In addition, his lawyers have been denied access to documents relating to the case, including the prosecutor's referral decision, undermining their ability to prepare their defense.

Shawkan has begun a hunger strike, in a last attempt to be released. Recently, his condition has worsened dramatically—his weight has dropped below 130 lbs, and he is reported to be continually vomiting due to the effects of hepatitis. In a letter written to Amnesty International, he wrote, “I am a photojournalist, not a criminal. My indefinite detention is psychologically unbearable. Not even animals would survive in these conditions.”

PEN Center USA is calling for Mahmoud Abu Zeid to be immediately and unconditionally released, and the unfounded charges against him and all other prisoners of conscience in Egypt to be dropped without reservation.

Please TWEET directly at Ahmed Abu Zeid, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt (@mfaEgypt) with questions relating to Shawkan's detention.

Please SHARE this story on social media using the hashtag #FreeShawkan, in an effort to increase public awareness:


Please SIGN the petition at the bottom of this page to join PEN's appeal to the Egyptian authorities:

  • Urging that Mahmoud Abu Zeid be released immediately and unconditionally, as his illegal detention is solely a result of his journalistic work;
  • For the unfounded charges against him to be dropped without reservation;
  • Further urging that all other prisoners of conscience in Egypt be released immediately and unconditionally, and the charges against them dropped.

Sign the petition!
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