1st trial session of photojournalist Shawkan adjourned to Feb.6
Mahmoud Abou Zaid, courtesy of the Freedom for Shawkan Facebook page

CAIRO: The Cairo Criminal Court adjourned Saturday the trial of photojournalist Mahmoud Abou-Zeid, also known as Shawkan, to February 6, due to lack of space in the dock for hundreds of defendants in the case, according to Shawkan’s personal Twitter account that is run by his campaign “Freedom for Shawkan.”

The first trial session of Shawkan, who has been in remand for over 850 days, was held at a court inside Torah prison complex. Judge Hassan Farid who ruled in Al-Jazeera journalists’ retrial, is presiding in Shawkan’s case that includes some 739 defendants.

The case is called the “Rabaa sit-in dispersal,” referring to the August 2013 dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations. Shawkan was covering the events when he was arrested.

The defendants face charges of affiliations with the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, assembly, murder, weapon possession and deliberately damaging of public and private assets.

His long incarceration pending investigations was highly denounced as unlawful by rights organizations and press groups, especially that the maximum duration of remand in Egypt as stipulated in law is two years only.

Shawkan’s name has become known to the media after his campaign demanding his release “Freedom for Shawkan” has gained huge support on social media.

He has managed to leak letters from prison, where described his confusion over his prolonged detention without reason. He developed Hepatitis C inside jail, and was reportedly denied adequate treatment.

He risks “life imprisonment on trumped-up and politically motivated charges stemming from his work,” according to a Thursday statement by Amnesty International, which called for his immediate release.

At least 32 journalists are currently in prison, with most charges not related to their job, according to Khaled el-Balshy, the head of committee of liberties at the press syndicate.

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