A media watchdog has condemned Egyptian authorities for an “unjust” five-year sentence handed down to a photojournalist on Saturday in a mass trial involving 739 defendants.

The London-based Arab Observatory for Media Freedom made the remarks on the sentencing of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, in an online statement on Saturday.

The Observatory slammed the ruling as an “attack against press freedom” and called for the immediate release of Shawkan and other journalists detained in Egypt.

Shawkan is set to walk free having been behind bars since 2013.

He was arrested as he covered a sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa Square, where more than 1,000 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi were killed by Egyptian security forces.

“This politicised ruling has ignored the four journalists who were killed during the dispersal of Rabaa Square. None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice,” the Observatory statement said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Saturday also condemned the court’s verdict and called on authorities to remove restrictions on his release.

“We are relieved that Shawkan, whose only ‘crime’ was taking pictures, can finally walk out of prison, but he will not be fully free,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

Shawkan earlier this year received UNESCO’s World Freedom Prize.

He was one of more than 700 defendants on trial in the same case, most of them facing charges of killing police and vandalising property.

The same court that jailed him also confirmed on Saturday death sentences initially issued in July against 75 defendants, including leaders of Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The court also sentenced Al-Jazeera journalist Abdallah al-Shamy to 15 years in prison in absentia for taking part in the Rabaa sit-in.

Source: Agencies