Jailed photographer awaits verdict in Egypt terrorism trial


The parents of an Egyptian photojournalist, whose case was highlighted by UNESCO, hope their son will be cleared when his trial ends, but fear he could be convicted on terrorism charges.

Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also known as Shawkan, was detained in 2013 while taking pictures of security forces dispersing an anti-government sit-in in which hundreds of loyalists of ousted president Mohamed Mursi and several police officers were killed.

He is one of 739 people being tried for events of that day on charges including membership of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, possessing firearms and murder.

If convicted, the accused could face the death penalty.

Shawkan was awarded the 2018 Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO which said his detention was a human rights abuse. Egypt criticised the decision to give an award to someone accused of serious offences.
“Since UNESCO gave him the prize and the state got angry and accused him of being a terrorist, we grew worried,” Abu Zeid’s mother, 62-year-old Reda Mahrous, told Reuters.
“God willing, he will be cleared, but deep inside I am scared,” she said, speaking at Shawkan’s home. “He was holding a camera and taking pictures, not a weapon.”

Officials were not available to comment but a judicial source said Egyptian courts issue verdicts based on irrefutable evidence.
“If he is innocent, the court will announce that, but if he is guilty he will be punished,” the source said.

Most on trial are suspected Muslim Brotherhood members, but Shawkan (30) denies links to the group. He says he was only doing his job as a freelance photographer covering the protest for a British-based photo agency.

Government considers the Brotherhood a terrorist group, something the organisation denies. Cairo defended the way the protest was cleared, saying it gave protesters the opportunity to leave peacefully and armed elements in the Brotherhood initiated the violence.

Rights groups accuse Sisi’s government of a sweeping crackdown on journalists and dissent, with Amnesty International saying the mass trial “beggars belief”.