Egyptian prosecutors requested the death sentence for Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, an Egyptian photojournalist who covered the Rabaa massacre of 2013 during which almost 1,000 people were killed by Egypt’s military government, led by current President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi.
Reporters Without Borders, the international NGO that promotes freedom of information and the press, issued a press release Wednesday condemning the prosecution’s “indiscriminate” proposed sentence and calling for Abou Zeid's immediate release.
The release states that Shawkan is one of 700 defendants in a mass trial held in Cairo for whom the maximum penalty, death by hanging, was requested on March 3.
The 700 defendants were arrested in connection with the August 2013 protests against the coup orchestrated by Egypt’s military to oust Mohamed Morsi, and are charged with murder, attempted murder and/or membership of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Numbers vary. While Human Rights Watch documented between 817 and 1,000 demonstrators, and 8 police killed in the events at the Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, Amnesty International believes over 1,000 protesters were murdered that day.
“Seeking the death penalty for a photographer who simply covered an opposition demonstration is a political punishment, not an act of justice,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Shawkan was arrested on Aug. 14, 2013 while covering the use of force by the security forces to break up the Rabaa Square protest for the British photo agency Demotix.
His detention is regarded as arbitrary by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.