In a letter written from Tora prison and published by Amnesty International on Wednesday, detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zaid ‘Shawkan’ detailed the conditions inside the prison, the procedures governing inspections, and decried his continued detention
In his letter, Shawkan—who has been detained without trial and subject to inhumane detention conditions since his arrest on 14 August 2013—accounted for how inspection visits take place inside the prison, and how security ‘informants’ responsible for the search process mistreat detainees. Shawkan said the prison has been searched 26 times by the prison authority within the 900 last days, and 95 times by the “Prison Intelligence Service”. He identified the chief of intelligence as “Mr Selim.”
“We lined up next to each other like slackers for the inspection to take place under the supervision of the chief prison informant. An hour passed by with all the denigrating looks and verbal insults one can think of,” Shawkan wrote to Amnesty International.
He further described the brutality of search raids and how informants destroy and steal detainees’ personal belonging, adding: “imagine what it would be like to have 10 people searching a 2×1.8m cell”.
Last Monday, the Tora Prison administration prevented Shawkan’s family from entering the prison with food to give to the journalist without providing any clear reason for their decision. Shawkan is also suffering a deteriorating health condition stemming from a hepatitis c viral infection.
This was preceded by the decision to place Shawkan in solitary confinement for four days due to prison authorities’ claims that a ‘smuggled’ mobile phone was found in his cell during inspection.
Shawkan is expected to appear for a court session scheduled on 26 March. However, the trial has been repeatedly delayed due to claims that the courtroom cannot host the more than 700 defendants who stand accused alongside Shawkan in the case.
“Why all this oppression and persecution? Has it not been enough? What is this? Am I the [Muslim Brotherhood] Supreme Guide? Or am I [Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman Al-] Zawahiri? But Zawahiri left prison years ago? So what is this? Why does this happen to me? So, could I be [leader of the militant group Islamic State] Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi?” Shawkan asked, concluding that his “questions remain with no answers for me except that it is a matter of persecution by the chief informant.”
“I am a journalist who has no affiliation but to his profession, a journalist who answered the call of the government itself to cover the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in,” wrote Shawkan, who is now facing charges of murder, violence, possession of a weapon among a series of other charges that could lead to a life imprisonment sentence.
Full letter by Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/03/cruelty-insult-photojournalist-letter-egyptian-jail/