Jailed UNESCO Award-Winner Photojournalist Soon to Be Released in Egypt

September 9, 2018 Updated: September 9, 2018

Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, winner of this year’s UNESCO Press Freedom Prize, is expected to be released soon from an Egyptian jail. He has been detained since his arrest in August 2013.

Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkanwas arrested for covering mass protests against the military coup that immediately followed the removal of President Mohamed Morsi.

Initial charges against Abu Zeid—”murder and membership of a terrorist organization”—carry the death penalty. A court decision on Sept. 8 imposed a sentence of five years, which he has already served. He is expected to be released soon, but according to a tweet from his lawyer Karim Abdelrady, Abu Zeid will remain under “police observation” for five years.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the sentence and called for Abu Zeid’s full release without restrictions.

“His treatment, and that of scores of other journalists under Egypt’s totally discredited judicial system, is a stain on Egypt,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

Press freedom organization, PEN America, called Abu Zeid’s conviction “an absurd injustice.”

75 Others Sentenced to Death

While Abu Zeid received a shorter jail term, the court issued death sentences to 75 people, including prominent Islamist leaders. Over 600 people were jailed over the 2013 protests, which ended with hundreds of protesters being killed by security forces.

Cases were dropped against five people who had died while in prison, judicial sources said, without giving further details.

Amnesty International condemned the court’s decision, calling the trial “disgraceful.”

Human Rights Watch says more than 800 protesters, and possibly as many as 1,000, died in the 2013 clashes.

The government originally claimed more than 40 police had died, but later said eight members of the security force were killed in the indecent.

The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize, was created in 1997. The prize honors a person, organization, or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to defend and promote press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

Reuters contributed to this report.