Egyptian photographer Mohamed Al-Zaki was covering a protest on December 16 2011, near the ministers’ council in Cairo. The protest followed the nomination of Kamal Ganzouri as Egypt’s new Prime Minister but violence erupted when one of the protesters was arrested and beaten by the military.
Accused of taking pictures
“As soon as I heard there was a protest, I grabbed my camera and headed to the place to cover the event. When I got there, the atmosphere was very tense.
I was already filming when security forces started shooting rubber bullets and firing teargas to the crowd. All those around me dispersed and all of a sudden I was into the hands of agents from the Interior Ministry
“I’m a photojournalist” I explained to them. I showed them my press card and the accreditation I had got from the authorities. But it didn’t help. The security agents started beating me and hit me with their truncheons.
They were kicking me hard and I couldn’t figure out how many injuries and insults I was getting. Then, the agents took my camera and threw a substance that contained pepper. I could feel my face was very itchy and my eyes stingy. I couldn’t see anything and had no idea what was going on around me.
I thought I would be blind for life and I had no other option than to surrender.
I felt dreadful pain. My body was aching from top to bottom. I was struggling to stay upright but I was terrified that the agents were going to trample on me.
Ten minutes later, one of them shot at me eight bullets. Five them pierced my back, and three touched my head.
Tortured at the Interior Ministry
I got taken away. I had no idea who they were because I couldn’t see anything. I later found out that they put me in an army vehicle headed to the Interior Ministry.
Once there, I got transferred from an office to another, under a deluge of more kicks and insults.
Aware that I couldn’t see, the police inspector finally let me wash my eyes. But it took another hour and half before I could see again
I spent eight hours at the Interior Ministry and, I am not exaggerating when I say that they didn’t stop kicking and torturing me for six hours.
I am sure that they were cruel to me because I’m a journalist.
In the end, I was transferred to Abdin’s police station, near the Interior Ministry, where they forced me to sign their report on the incident under a lot of psychological pressuer and after multiple threats.
After I was forced to sign the document, they promised they would return the camera they had taken from me and said it was inside the Interior Ministry and I had to go back there to take it.
I went back to the ministry. A group of security officers gathered around me. I told them I came for my camera but they started searching me. They took everything I had – money, mobile phone, and even the mask I use to protect myself from teargas!
When they finished inspecting me, I left the ministry and was set free with the help of a few media organisations.
However, I decision didn’t include that I could get my camera back and it is still jailed at the Interior Ministry.
Interview compiled by AIsha Sid-Ahmed