Egypt postpones verdicts over 2013 sit-in citing ‘security’

Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known by his nickname Shawkan, appears before a judge after spending more than 600 days in prison in Cairo, Egypt. The Cairo Criminal Court said in a statement Saturday June 30, 2018

 

An Egyptian court on Saturday postponed until July 28 the verdicts for hundreds of defendants detained for their involvement in a 2013 sit-in, including the top leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Cairo Criminal Court said in a statement the verdicts had to be delayed because the more than 700 defendants could not be brought to court for “security concerns.” The court did not elaborate.

The case involves 739 defendants, including Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Badie and award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan. The charges range from murder to damaging public property.

It relates to the 2013 violent dispersal of a sit-in held in support of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who hailed from the Brotherhood and had been overthrown by the military more than a month earlier after mass protests against his one-year divisive rule.

Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of the June 30, 2013 protests against Morsi which led the military — led by then-general-now President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — to oust Morsi. On Aug. 14, 2013, security forces dispersed the encampments held in Morsi’s support. More than 600 people were killed. Months later, Egypt designated the Brotherhood a “terrorist organization.”

Egyptian authorities have since launched a severe crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters, arresting many and trying them over terrorism related charges.

International rights groups have denounced the mass trial. On Friday, Amnesty International described it as a “grotesque parody of justice” and called on authorities to drop all charges against those arrested for protesting peacefully.

Amnesty said Shawkan, who was covering the demonstration at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square, is facing some 24 charges but the prosecution “has not presented any evidence that he was guilty of murder or any other violence.”

In a statement last week, Reporters With Borders said the fact that Shawkan faces a possible death sentence makes it “one of the most appalling attacks imaginable on journalism.”

In April, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization awarded Shawkan the World Press Freedom Prize amid warnings from Egypt against recognizing him.

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