Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan to be released after five years' imprisonment

Egyptian photojournalist Shawkan to be released after five years' imprisonment
3 min read
08 September, 2018
However Shawkan will be subjected to "police observation", meaning he will have to appear at a police station every day at sunset for the next five years,
Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 while covering deadly violence in Cairo's Rabaa Square [Getty]
Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, is set to be released from jail after five years.

An Egyptian court on Saturday handed a five-year sentence to the photographer, who is set to walk free having been behind bars since 2013.

Shawkan, who earlier this year received UNESCO's World Freedom Prize, was arrested in August 2013 as he covered a sit-in in Cairo's Rabaa Square, where more than 1,000 protesters supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi were killed by Egyptian security forces

He was accused of "murder and membership of a terrorist organisation" - charges that can carry the death penalty - but should be able to leave prison "within a few days", his lawyer Karim Abdelrady said as he welcomed the verdict.

But the lawyer added that the sentence was nevertheless "unfair because he (Shawkan) was only doing his job" and covering the events unfolding in the Egyptian capital five years ago.

Shawkan's detention sparked outrage among human rights groups and NGOs who lobbied continuously for his release, saying he should never have been arrested for merely doing his job.

Amnesty International last week told Egyptian judicial authorities: "The world is watching you".

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Saturday condemned the court's verdict and called on authorities to remove restrictions on his release. According to Shawkan's brother Mohamed, he will be under "police observation" for the next  five years, meaning he will have to appear at a police station every day at sunset.

"We are relieved that Shawkan, whose only 'crime' was taking pictures, can finally walk out of prison, but he will not be fully free," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "His treatment, and that of scores of other journalists under Egypt's totally discredited judicial system, is a stain on Egypt."

Shawkan was one of more than 700 defendants on trial in the same case, most of them facing charges of killing police and vandalising property.

Comment: Journalism in Egypt: A stark warning to the world

The same court that jailed him also confirmed on Saturday death sentences initially issued in July against 75 defendants, including leaders of Morsi's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

They include senior Brotherhood members Mohamed el-Baltagui, Issam al-Aryan and Safwat Hijazi.

Of the 75 defendants, 44 were in the dock while the rest were tried in absentia.

On 14 August, 2013, one of the bloodiest days in Egypt's modern history, a month after the army ousted Morsi, police moved to disperse a sprawling Islamist protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo.

About 700 people were killed within hours at Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda Square where another sit-in was being held.

Hundreds more were killed by security forces over the months that followed and mass arrests were made.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say at least 40,000 people were arrested in the first year after Morsi's ouster on 3 July, 2013.

Egypt's courts have sentenced hundreds of them to death or lengthy jail terms after speedy mass trials, that the human rights group said made a mockery of due process.

They include Morsi and several leaders of his Brotherhood movement.

Meanwhile, no members of Egypt's security forces or Cairo authorities under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have been held accountable for the Rabaa massacre.