Amnesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of an Egyptian photojournalist jailed for taking pictures of a protest where more than 700 people were killed.
Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as “Shawkan” (pictured), could face the death penalty after being falsely accused of nine charges including murder, the charity has said.
Shawkan was arrested in Cairo on 14 August 2013 while taking photographs of a sit-in of thousands of people at the Rabaa al-Adaweya Square.
They were protesting President Mohamed Morsi’s ousting by the armed forces. Police broke up the protest using bullets and tear gas, killing more than 700 people in the process, said Amnesty.
Shawkan photographed the events as they unfolded but was arrested and beaten by police when they discovered he was a journalist, the charity said.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “Shawkan’s arrest and detention is totally unjustified and a flagrant breach of Egypt’s own laws.
“His only ‘crime’ was to take photographs at a public demonstration. No journalist should ever be jailed for doing their job and taking photographs is not a crime.
“Shawkan’s detention is three years too long. It’s time for his immediate and unconditional release, and the authorities should drop all charges against him.”
Shawkan is far from the only journalist to have been detained in Egypt in recent years.
Last year two Al Jazeera journalists were released after being jailed for “broadcasting false news” and “operating as journalists without authorisation”, charges Amnesty described as “ludicrous”.
Allen added: “Egypt’s crackdown on the media did not begin and end with the Al Jazeera case.
“Tragically scores of journalists remain behind bars, and Shawkan’s awful situation shows how press freedom is now a distant memory in Egypt.
“We reiterate our call on Egyptian authorities to immediately release Shawkan and all the other journalists who are behind bars in Egypt simply for doing their job.”
Last week Amnesty held a demonstration outside the Egyptian Embassy in central London, and tomorrow Shawkan’s plight will be marked as part of Amnesty’s annual Media Awards ceremony.
An exhibition of Shawkan’s photographs will be on display at Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre in Shoreditch, east London, until Friday 16 December.