Egyptian photojournalist released from jail after nearly six years

Shawkan was detained in August 2013 while covering clashes between security forces and president Mohamed Morsi
Mahmoud Abu zeid
Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu zeid (R), also known as Shawkan, sits with his mother at his home in the capital Cairo on March 4, 2019. – Award-winning Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, was released from jail on March 4, 2019 after spending nearly six years in prison, his lawyer said. Shawkan, who last year received UNESCO’s World Freedom Prize, was arrested in 2013 while he was covering clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Award-winning Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid was released on Monday after spending nearly six years in prison following his arrest while covering a bloody crackdown on protests, his lawyer said.

The photographer, widely known as Shawkan, last year received UNESCO’s World Freedom Prize, dismaying the Egyptian authorities who accused him of “terrorist and criminal acts”.

“He was released at 6:00 am (0400 GMT) from the Al-Haram police station (near the Giza pyramids) and is currently at home,” his attorney Taher Aboul Nasr reported.

Shawkan was detained in August 2013 while covering clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi that turned into a bloodbath in which hundreds of demonstrators died.

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The photojournalist was jailed and put on trial along with 739 defendants, most of them charged with killing police and vandalising property.

It was one of the largest mass trials since the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak.

In September an Egyptian court upheld death sentences against 75 defendants and gave Shawkan a five-year jail term — which covered the time he had already served — but he remained in jail awaiting his release.

Shawkan was accused of “murder and membership of a terrorist organisation” — charges that can carry the death penalty — sparking condemnation from international rights groups which demanded his release.

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Amnesty International said at the time he had been convicted “simply for doing his job as a photojournalist and documenting the police brutality that took place that day”.

Another 214 people who were sentenced in September to five years in prison were released from prison on Monday.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former army chief, was elected in 2014 nearly a year after leading the military’s overthrow of Morsi following mass protests against the Islamist’s year-long rule. Sisi, who critics say has carried out a widespread crackdown on dissent, was re-elected in March 2018 after securing more than 97 percent of the vote in the absence of any serious competition.

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