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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan)


Detained Since: August 14, 2013.

Charges: Murder, attempted murder and membership of a banned organization (the Muslim Brotherhood).

Sentence: Five years in prison, already served.

Biography: Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, is an Egyptian journalist and photographer who often depicts daily cultural life and produces street portraits. He has contributed to publications such as Time Magazine, Die Zeit, BILD, Media Group, and online photo agency, Demotix.

Abou Zeid was arrested on August 14, 2013 while covering the dispersal of the Rab’a Al Adweya sit-in along with two other journalists: Louis Jammes, a French photographer and Mike Giglio, a US reporter working for the Daily Beast. The two other journalists were released because of their foreign citizenship and passports, but Abou Zeid was kept in custody, where he has been beaten, tortured, and denied medical care.

In September 2015 after more than two years of pretrial detention, Abou Zeid's case was referred to a Cairo criminal court for trial. The photographer, along with more than 700 others arrested in connection with the Rab'a sit-in, was charged with weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder, according to court documents. On March 3, 2018, prosecutors requested  the “maximum penalty” – death by hanging – for Abou Zeid and his more than 700 co-defendents. He is currently being held in Cairo's Tora Prison.

On September 8, 2018, Abou Zeid was sentenced to five years in prison, already served. He is likely to be released in the coming days.

Advocate: Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI)

Advocacy Partner: Reporters Without Borders


  • An independent jury panel for UNESCO awarded the World Press Freedom Prize Monday to Mr. Abou Zeid. Jury President Maria Ressa said the award, which recognizes work that promotes freedom of the press, especially under dangerous conditions, “pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression.” (April 23, 2018, Middle East Eye)
  • The Cairo Criminal Court has said it will give its verdict on a case known in Egyptian media as “the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in” on 30 June. Mr. Abou Zeid is one of the defendants. (May 29, 2018, Ahram Online)
  • The National Press Club and its nonprofit Journalism Institute, along with the Committee to Protect Journalists and more than 20 professional journalism and human rights organizations, urged U.S. officials to help secure the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Abou Zeid. (June 26, 2018, The National Press Club)
  • The Cairo Criminal Court delayed a final ruling in the case against 739 people, including Mr. Abou Zeid, saying defendants could not be transferred to the court due to "security concerns". A new hearing been set for July 28. (June 30, 2018, Reuters)
  • “We know he is innocent,” said his father, Abdel Shakour Abou Zeid, 70, in a recent article speaking on Mahmoud Abou Zeid and how his imprisonment has affected both family and loved ones. (July 24, 2018, Los Angeles Times)
  • At the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee hearing Egypt: Security, Human Rights, and Reform, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) made a statement on behalf of Mr. Abou Zeid. Find the statement at 43:50. (July 24, 2018, House Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • On July 24, 2018, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) sent a letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, urging him to release Mr. Abou Zeid. (July 24, 2018, Office of Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI))
  • An Egyptian court sentenced 75 defendants to death over the 2013 Raba'a sit-in. Mr. Abou Zeid was not among them, but it is unclear what verdict, if any, he received. (July 28, 2018, Deutsche Welle)
  • On September 6, 2018, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) gave a speech on the House floor highlighting Mr. Abou Zeid's case. Mr. Abou Zeid could be sentenced as early as this weekend.  (September 6, 2018, C-SPAN)
  • Mahmoud Abou Zeid was sentenced to five years in prison, which he has already served. (September 8, 2018, Amnesty International)
  • The prosecutor’s office has now decided to extend Mahmoud Abou Zeid's detention by six months, which would mean he would not get out of prison until mid-February 2019. (November 15, 2018, Reporters Without Borders)