Photojournalist working for British photo agency faces death penalty in Egypt

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A 31-year-old Egyptian photojournalist arrested for taking photographs at a massacre in Cairo, Egypt, has been told he faces the death penalty.

Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known by the alias Shawkan, was imprisoned while taking photographs during the Rabaa massacre in August 2013.  At the time, he was reporting on post-coup unrest by the Egyptian government and was working on assignment for Demotix, a British photo agency.

According to Reporters without Borders, Shawkan and more than 700 other individuals were arrested in connection with large-scale anti-government protests that unfolded in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in August 2013. He was held without charges or trial until March 2016.

Last week, the prosecution in the trial requested that all those arrested, including Shawkan, be sentenced to the highest penalty of death by hanging. The charges for all those arrested include accusations of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, attempted murder and murder.

Shawkan’s arrest has classified as arbitrary, with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention aware of his detainment and issuing a report on his arrest and subsequent detention. They say that Shawkan has been deprived medical treatment, adequate access to his lawyer, and due process.

Reporters without Borders have called for Shawkan's release, noting in their report that RSF's World Press Freedom Index ranks Egypt among the lowest in the world.

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