Brandishing placards and cameras in a show of solidarity, the demonstrators called for the immediate and unconditional release of the 30-year-old photographer, who has been held arbitrarily for the past five years.
“This young man has spent a sixth of his life in prison just for doing his job,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said at a joint press conference with Sylvie Bigot-Vilain, the director-general of Amnesty International France.
“He graduated in 2012 and has been detained since 2013. Five years in prison just for doing his job is intolerable. If the Egyptian justice system sentences Shawkan to death on Saturday, President Sisi’s regime will forever bear the stain and activists, including RSF activists, will be there to remind him whenever he travels abroad. We urge all those who can put pressure on Egypt to request Shawkan’s release.”
During the protest at the embassy, RSF staff members tried to hand in a box filled with the photographs of thousands of journalists, photographers and sympathizers from all of the world who took part in the “#MyPicforShawkan” campaign of solidarity with Shawkan that RSF launched on 10 April.
Amnesty left a package outside representing the 71,350 signatures that it received to a petition for Shawkan’s release. The embassy refused to accept either of these highly symbolic items.
The court that is trying Shawkan along with more than 700 fellow defendants is due to issue its verdict and sentence on 8 September. In April, the prosecution requested the death sentence for Shawkan,who is accused of terrorism for trying to cover the use of deadly force to disperse a sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa Square in August 2013.
With at least 32 professional and non-professional journalists currently detained in connection with their reporting, Egypt is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.