Egyptian prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a photojournalist arrested more than four years ago while covering an anti-government protest, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported earlier today.
Mahmoud Abou Zeid, an Egyptian photojournalist also known as Shawkan, was arrested in August, 2013 while covering the protest in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square for British photo agency Demotix, according to the report. He is among 700 defendants arrested at the protest who now face charges of murder, attempted murder, and membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned organization. On March 3, the prosecutor requested the “maximum penalty,” which is death by hanging under Egyptian law.
“Seeking the death penalty for a photographer who simply covered an opposition demonstration is a political punishment, not an act of justice,” RSF said. “Shawkan’s only crime was trying to do his job as a photographer. He must be freed at once.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists said on social media that the prosecutor’s call for the death penalty “is shocking.” CPJ has repeatedly called on Egyptian authorities to release Shawkan, and in September 2016 co-sponsored an exhibition of his work at the Bronx Documentary Center to bring attention to his plight. In November 2016, CPJ gave Shawkan its International Press Freedom Award, which recognizes journalists who have risked their lives to do their work.
Meanwhile, arrests of journalists continue to mount in Egypt, which ranks near the bottom of RSF’s Press Freedom Index. Reporter Mai El-Sabagh and cameraman Ahmad Mustafa were arrested in Alexandria February 28, allegedly for filming without a license. Egyptian journalist Moataz Wadnan, a reporter for Huffington Post Arabi, was arrested February 16 and has since disappeared in state custody, according to a CPJ report.
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