After five years of imprisonment, prominent Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zaid was released and returned to his family Monday.

Zaid, popularly known as “Shawkan,” said he would continue his work as a journalist, despite harsh conditions to his release. Shawkan will remain under “police observation” for the next five years, required to check in with police every day at sunset and will be prohibited from managing his financial assets and properties during those five years.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists, welcomed his release but condemned the conditions.

“We are relieved to hear that Shawkan is finally free after spending over five years in jail and call on authorities to end their shameful treatment of this photojournalist by removing any conditions to his release,” said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Shawkan was one of hundreds of people arrested after Egyptian security forces stormed two Muslim Brotherhood sit-in camps in August 2013, several months after the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi after weeks of protests against him.

In September, an Egyptian court upheld death sentences against 75 of the over 700 defendants in the original mass trial. Shawkan, who was taking photos outside the sit-in camps in 2013, was given five years in prison — a term he had already served.

Last April, the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO awarded Shawkan the World Press Freedom Prize.

The mass trial and Shawkan’s imprisonment have elicited widespread criticism on the lack of press freedom in Egypt.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Egypt 161st out of 180 countries on its press freedom index. Over 30 journalists remain in Egyptian prisons, according to the rights group.


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