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Egyptian photojournalist at risk of death penalty

Photojournalist, Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as Shawkan), is passionate about taking pictures. He is now paying the price for his peaceful work and is on trial. He risks the death penalty.

On 26 March 2016, at a Cairo court hearing, an official from the public prosecution directed nine phony charges against Shawkan. Before the trial, Shawkan’s lawyers were denied access to key documents related to the case, including the charges sheet.

When Shawkan was arrested in 2013, it was believed he was at risk of life imprisonment. Now, his fate could be much worse as he risks the death penalty. Shawkan was arrested while simply doing his job. He was photographing security forces’ violent behaviour in Cairo’s street protests. He has been in detention for more than two years, in violation of Egyptian law. He is the only Egyptian journalist to have been held beyond this two-year cap. His health is deteriorating and he has been denied access to medication, despite suffering from Hepatitis C.

Shawkan should never have been arrested in the first place and should be free to peacefully practice his work as a photojournalist, guaranteed by his right to freedom of expression.

Please take action to tell the Egyptian authorities loud and clear that Shawkan’s peaceful journalism is not a crime.

Sign our petition today. Tell Egypt to free Shawkan.

Dear Public Prosecutor,

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in September 2015 that there is “unprecedented freedom of expression in Egypt” and in August 2015 he said that Egypt respects and appreciates the role of the media and allows journalists to work without any restrictions. So, I urge you to release photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid (‘Shawkan’) immediately and unconditionally. He is a prisoner of conscience, who has been behind bars for over two years solely for peacefully doing his work as a journalist.

He is on trial and at risk of the death penalty, if convicted.

I strongly urge the authorities to:

  • drop all charges against Mahmoud Abu Zeid and release him immediately and unconditionally  as he is a prisoner of conscience, detained  solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;
  • provide Mahmoud Abu Zeid with any medical attention he may require, pending his release.