Cairo Criminal Court adjourned photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid’s (popularly known as Shawkan) court hearing on Tuesday to August 3, as he and his lawyers were unable to attend the hearing due to a last minute location change.
The hearing was originally scheduled for August 1, after Nasr City Misdemeanor Court renewed Shawkan’s detention for 45 days on June 20. His lawyers said they were only notified of Tuesday’s hearing just before the Eid weekend.
When Shawkan’s lawyers headed to the Police Academy — where hearings are usually held — on Tuesday morning, along with several journalists, they discovered that his case number wasn’t on the list of those to be heard.
Ahmed Abdel Naby, a lawyer from the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), said that after they discovered Shawkan’s hearing would not take place on Tuesday at the Police Academy, they sent a lawyer to a court in North Cairo to determine when and where it was scheduled for.
The lawyer discovered the hearing was in process in the 19th District Criminal Court in New Cairo
Abdel Naby explained that changing the location of a hearing without notifying the lawyers on the case raises questions concerning the intentions of the prosecution, and may indicate a preference for a particular judicial district with a bias against specific cases.
Shawkan had spent 700 days in prison as of last Friday, after he was arrested in August 2013 while covering the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya pro-Morsi sit-in, along with two foreign photographers who were arrested and later released. Shawkan has been held pending investigation without formal charge.
Last April, Amnesty International published a letter by Shawkan, in which he described the conditions of his detention and lack of medical care over the past two years, as well as the torture he alleges he was subjected to.
“I am a photojournalist, not a criminal. My indefinite detention is psychologically unbearable. Not even animals would survive in these conditions,” he wrote.
Shawkan’s brother, Mohamed Abdel Shakour, told Mada Masr that Shawkan is still suffering behind bars, adding that the prison administration refuses to allow him medication for his Hepatitis C.
Other local newspapers also published a letter by Shawkan, addressing the head of the Journalists Syndicate Yehia Qallash and other syndicate board members, urging them to work for the release of all journalists being held for publishing or field based activity..
According to the Freedom for Shawkan Facebook page, the photojournalist faces 12 different charges, including joining a group that aims to deter the rule of the law and the constitution, violating the personal freedoms of citizens, harming national unity, using the threat of violence and terrorizing citizens, among other charges.