Egypt: Photographer and director dies in Cairo prison

12 May 2020
Image of artist Shady Habash
Photo: Shady Habash / Facebook


Egyptian photographer and music video director Shady Habash has died in a Cairo prison, according to Al Jazeera.

The 24-year old artist was awaiting trial in the city’s Tora prison on pre-trial charges of “spreading false news” and “joining a banned organisation” related to a Ramy Essam music video which mocked President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

“The death of Shady Habash is an enormous loss for the artistic community,” said Dr Srirak Plipat, Freemuse Executive Director, “Shady’s over two-year detention without charge, followed by death in custody for directing a music video mocking the Egyptian president, is outrageous. It’s a scandal of the world’s freedom of artistic expression.”

The song at the centre of Habash’s detention was written by fellow imprisoned artist, Galal el-Behairy.

According to the pubic prosecutor, the artist died from alcohol poisoning after ingesting hand sanitiser he mistook for water, the BBC asserts.

According to the BBC, Habash had been imprisoned in pre-trial detention since 2018 – exceeding the maximum two-year limit of detention without trial. An extract from the artist’s letter, published in October 2019 by Essam, shows the depth of his anguish at being detained without an end date, and without trial.

“For the past two years I’ve been trying on my own to resist everything happening to me, so that I can come out of prison the same person you’ve always known, but I can’t go on…Every 45 days I go before a judge who gives me another 45 days in jail, without even looking at me nor the papers of the case in which everyone else was released 6 months ago.”

Read the full letter here.

Photo: Shady Habash / Jonathan Rashad
Photo: Shady Habash / Jonathan Rashad


Al Jazeera highlights the alarming state of Egyptian prisons, whereby they assert that many prisoners remain untried in extremely poor conditions, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Freemuse calls for an independent, effective, and credible investigation into Habash’s death and for those responsible to be held to account.  


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