Egypt releases photojournalist Shawkan after five years in detention

Mahmoud Abu Zaid, a photojournalist known as Shawkan, poses with his colleague’s camera at his home in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, March 4, 2019. Shawkan was released after five years in prison (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Cairo ( – Egyptian authorities released on Monday photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, and 213 others who have served five-year prison terms for their involvement in a Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa El-Adawiya in 2013.

Shawkan, 32, is a freelance photojournalist who was arrested in August 2013 while covering the dispersal of the sit-in, where supporters of ex-president Mohamed Morsi had gathered to protest his ouster, Ahram Online reported.

The 214 defendants were convicted in 2018 on charges including murder, attempted murder, assault on police and citizens, vandalism and the burning and destruction of public and private property.

Shawkan and the other defendants were released as the jail time they spent in pre-trial detention goes towards time served.

Shawkan will be on probation for five years.

Since his detention in 2013, many local and international human rights organisations have criticized Shawkan’s imprisonment, saying he was merely doing his job as a freelance photojournalist when covering the sit-in.

In April 2018, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) announced that Shawkan was selected to receive the 2018 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize.

“The choice of Mahmoud Abu Zeid pays tribute to his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression,” said Maria Ressa, president of the jury, in a media statement.

Egypt’s foreign ministry in a statement at the time said that it regretted UNESCO’s decision to award the prize to Shawkan.

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