The appeals court in the city of Mansoura in Egypt rejected an appeal against the 15-day detention for Patrick George Zaki, a student at the University of Bologna arrested at Cairo International Airport on 7 February. A new hearing is set for 22 February.
The rejection of the appeal for Patrick’s detention confirms suspicions feared by human rights organizations, from Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the NGO for which Zaki worked, to Amnesty International, regarding the intentions of Egyptian authorities to punish the young activist committed to defending human rights for the oppressed and marginalized people in his country.
In the meantime, campaigns for his release in Egypt and Italy are growing stronger.
It is clear to everyone – activists, journalists and institutions – that the situation must be monitored closely and continuously through international organism, as is currently taking place.
The only possibility to ensure Zaki’s rights is for awareness to remain high so that all legal proceedings against him are as transparent as possible.
Following the murder of Giulio Regeni four years ago in Cairo, it is absolutely necessary that international commitment is strong and determined. It is the only hope for a positive outcome in the case. In addition to reporting on Zaki and all the other victims in the greatest repression since President Abdle Fattah al Sisi has been in power, we feel the need to support and relaunch Amnesty International appeal urging the Italian Government to do whatever possible and continue to put pressure on Egyptian authorities to ensure that the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna student is released as soon as possible.
Institutional and public opinion initiatives must be mutually supportive. It is important to continue campaigns asking for his release and to ensure his safety.
Zaki is being accused of spreading fake news, “inciting to protest”, using social media to undermine public safety, and “incitement to violence and terrorist crimes”. These are the allegations held against him based on an investigation that began on 23 September.
The most serious accusation, seeking to “overthrow the government” via social media, is punishable with a life sentence. Patrick has also been accused of managing a Facebook page against the regime.
According to his lawyer, Huda Nasrallah, who was able to see him for a few minutes today when he presented the court in Mansoura with an appeal asking for his release, Patrick was “good this time as he hoped that he would walk free.” The appeal was rejected.
In court, the Egyptian activist said he was arrested at Cairo International Airport, interrogated for about six hours and then taken to a national security facility where he was beaten and tortured with electrical cables.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, whose representatives were present at the hearing, asked for the immediate and unconditional release of Patrick and to carry out investigations into the torture and abuse he suffered.
The organization, for which Zaki worked as a researcher until he went to Bologna to further his studies, argued that his request for release is based on procedural irregularities regarding his arrest and detention.
Ever since his arrest at the airport on 7 February, he has been illegally detained in a national security facility.
In order to monitor his detention conditions, Italian authorities, invested with the case because he is a student in Italy, should ask Egypt to visit him in prison.
The Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD) and ANTIGONE, Italian organizations that ensure the rights of the penal system, stated that if Egypt has nothing to hide, it shouldn’t fear a visit from a delegation made up of a representative from the Italian Foreign Ministry and representatives of Italian and international civil societies.
It is our country’s moral duty to protect Patrick Zaki because he chose to continue his cultural and scientific studies in Italy. We owe it to him and to all those who come to Italy to study in peace. Freedom of opinion and dissent should always be guaranteed.
On Monday, it is everyone’s duty to participate at the protest organized in Bologna to ask for the release of the Egyptian researcher.
Demanding the respect for human rights and freedom of expression for Patrick will echo even stronger from Bologna. In the meantime, if you would like to support his release, you can sign the appeal by Amnesty International.