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Egypt's Journalists Syndicate files reports with public prosecutor on detained journalists

Ahram Online , Thursday 13 Aug 2015
Journalists' Syndicate Headquarters, downtown Cairo (Photo: Mohamed Nada)

Egypt's Journalists Syndicate has filed several reports to the country's top prosecutor to demand the release of a detained journalist and better health care for other imprisoned reporters.

Khaled Al-Balshy, the head of the liberties committee at Egypt's Journalists Syndicate, told Ahram Online that one of the reports filed on Thursday called for the release of photojournalist Mahmoud Abou-Zeid, known by his nickname Shawkan, who has spent almost two years in pre-trial detention, the maximum period under Egyptian law.

Shawkan , 27, was arrested in August 2013 while covering the government's violent dispersal of a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.  

He was accused of rioting, taking part in violent protests and belonging to a terrorist organisation, charges which he strongly denied and described as "fabricated."

In a letter wrote by Shawkan in prison that was read out at the press conference at the syndicate on Wednesday, Shawkan said that he thinks his prison is a "cemetery" which will be his "resting place."

"I've become accustomed to my frail, pale body and [my] disease," he wrote, and called on his free colleagues to save him from his ordeal.

During the press conference, Shawkan's father also called for his release and said that his son was only performing his job.

He also condemned the "injustice" his son has been subjected to.

In another report submitted to the public prosecutor, the liberties committee called on prison authorities to provide better health care for two other imprisoned journalists - Youssef Shabaan and Magdi Hussein, Al-Balshy said.

In a statement on Wednesday, the liberties committee at the syndicate voiced concern over the failing health of both journalists after they were allegedly denied treatment by prison authorities.

The committee blamed the interior ministry for the situation and said that it has received complaints from the imprisoned journalists' families raising alert over their "dangerous condition."

Hussein was arrested in July last year on violence-related charges, while Shabaan is currently serving a 15-month sentence on charges that include protesting without a permit and attacking a police station in March 2013.

A third report was lodged against violations detainees are subject to in the notorious and heavily guarded Al-Aqrab prison in south Cairo, where many of the detained journalists are held. The alleged violations include solitary confinement as well as banning medicine and visits.

A prison census conducted by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 1 June said that at least 18 Egyptian journalists are imprisoned for reasons related to their reporting, the highest number since the CPJ began keeping records in 1990.

However, on Monday, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi reiterated that no journalists are being held in Egyptian jails on crimes related to publishing, explaining that he cannot interfere in judicial matters.



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