CAIRO: Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, will remain in jail until his next court session on April 23 in a case that includes 738 other defendants tried collectively.
Court sessions in the “Rabaa dispersal” case began Saturday after several delays related to the dock, which was re-sized to accommodate the large number of defendants.
In the procedural session, which The Cairo Post covered from court, Shawkan’s defense team requested his release after two years and six months in pre-trial detention.
Lawyer Taher Abu el-Nasr explained to court that his client Shawkan was arrested “while doing his job as a photojournalist” covering the 2013 dispersal of Rabaa el-Adawiya sit-in, while his foreign colleagues were released shortly after.
In statements to The Cairo Post, Abu el-Nasr added that he expects the trial to take a long time until a verdict is issued due to the huge number of defendants, “it might take the court 20-30 sessions to only hear the prosecution witnesses; this is something annoying and exhausting to everyone.”
“It might take years for justice to be served in this case […] even an acquittal, if ruled, after long imprisonment is not justice,” he continued.
Although he rules out a soon release of Shawkan or any other defendant, Abu el-Nasr said the defense team will keep requesting his release on medical grounds as he suffers complications of Hepatitis C infection.
On Saturday, it took the court around one hour to read out the names of all the defendants to ensure they are all present.
— Nourhan Magdi (@NourhanMagdi) March 26, 2016
The session was suspended twice Saturday due to noise erupted by defendants, who banged on the cage and repeated angry chants. Judge Hassan Farid retracted a decision to evacuate all defendants after defense apology.
Farid was the judge who ruled to sentence Al-Jazeera journalists to three years in prison in retrial sessions.
A number of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders are among the defendants in the case, including former Guide Mohamed Badie, Mohamed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian, who appeared Saturday in red prison uniform as they were sentenced to death in other cases.
Badie’s lawyer Mohamed el-Damaty requested Judge to allow lawyers two months to photocopy and study the case file.
Lawyer of dual citizen Mostafa Kassem Abdullah who holds both Egyptian and American nationalities submitted Saturday papers to prove that his client has “regretfully” requested to cede his Egyptian citizenship eight months ago, and that procedures are taking so long.
Kassem said he lives in the U.S., and was in a one-month visit to Egypt. On his arrest day, he said he was carrying his U.S. ID and the return flight ticket booked for August 20, 2013, four days post detention.
Lawyer Mohamed Eissa told The Cairo Post that Kassem is hoping to make use of a deportation law issued by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, upon which Australian Journalist Peter Greste and U.S. Activist Mohamed Soltan left Egypt while their trial was on.
Among charges drawn against the defendants, launching arson attacks on public utilities, resisting authorities, possessing unlicensed weapons, blocking roads, premeditated murder and setting an armed gathering in Rabaa square.
In its decision, the court ordered prosecution to submit physical evidences next hearing, as well as medical reports to defendants suffering illness.
Upon lawyers’ requests, the judge ordered a copy of the case file to be delivered to defense teams either as CDs or printed out.
At the end of the session, relatives of the defendants were allowed to visit them inside the cage.