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Released Egypt journalist Shawkan detained during probation

March 8, 2019 at 1:58 pm

Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, was detained in 2013 while taking pictures of security forces dispersing an anti-government sit-in in which hundreds of loyalists of ousted president Mohamed Morsi [Mahmoud Abou Zeid/Twitter]

Egyptian photojournalist Mohammed Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, has been detained just days after he was freed having finished serving a five-year prison sentence, local activists have reported.

According to the terms of his probation, Shawkan was required to submit himself to an Egyptian police station everyday between 6pm and 6am, but failed to reappear on Tuesday morning when his father and lawyer arrived to collect him, Ahmed El-Attar of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedom (ECRF) told MEMO.

Shawkan was reportedly detained for 72 hours at Al-Haram police station – the same station where Ezzat Ghoneim, a prominent rights lawyer and the executive director of the ECRF, was last seen after signing the papers for his release from prison. He has been missing since 14 September, with friends and family suspecting he has been forcibly disappeared by the National Security Agency.

“This is a message from the National Security Agency, that we do not care what the international media say about you, you are under our control,” El-Attar said of the news.

Shawkan was released from prison on Monday, having been detained since 2013 after covering the Rabaa massacre for a British news agency. Last year he was convicted in a mass trial of a series of charges, including attempted murder, attacking police, and burning public and private property, but was released on time served, with an additional six-month term added to his sentence because he could not afford to pay a stipulated fine.

Egyptian activists and international journalists stood in solidarity with Shawkan during his detention, posting pictures of themselves on social media posing as if they are holding a camera, followed by a text saying “Journalism is not a crime”.

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In 2018, Shawkan was awarded the Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO which said his detention was a human rights abuse. Egypt criticised the decision to give an award to someone accused of serious offences.

Egyptian authorities regularly re-arrest former prisoners after they have been released, whilst simultaneously denying incidents of enforced disappearances. Several NGOs have pointed to the substantial evidence of state abductions, with Amnesty International specifically mentioning the disappearances of hundreds of people on unknown charges as a sign of the country’s escalating “human rights crisis”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for Egypt to “immediately reveal” the whereabouts of Ghoneim. The ECRF head and his colleague Azouz Mahgoub were arrested, prior to their disappearance, for representing Mona Mahmoud Mohamed, who was detained after featuring in a BBC documentary on enforced disappearances in which she recounted the repeated kidnapping and rape of her daughter, Zubeida Ibrahim.

In the days after the BBC report was aired, a woman claiming to be Ibrahim appeared alongside Egyptian TV host Amr Adeeb on the “Kol Youm” show, claiming that she had not been abducted, but had secretly married and eloped with another man.

Her mother was subsequently arrested and charged with spreading false news. She was released in January, but security authorities extended her detention two days later.

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