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Rights activist’s renewal session postponed as Italy’s Eni makes new oil discovery in Egypt

A big panel with the artwork by italian artist Gianluca Costantini claiming the freedom for Patrick Zaki, citizen of Bologna and student at University of Bologna who is detained in Egypt, is seen on the Palazzo Notai facade at Piazza Maggiore on 26 May 2020 in Bologna, Italy. [Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images]
A big panel with the artwork by italian artist Gianluca Costantini claiming the freedom for Patrick Zaki, citizen of Bologna and student at University of Bologna who is detained in Egypt, is seen on the Palazzo Notai facade at Piazza Maggiore on 26 May 2020 in Bologna, Italy. [Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images]

Patrick Zaki’s detention renewal session has been postponed until 12 July, according to the Freedom Twitter account which advocates the rights of Egyptian political prisoners.

His family has not seen him since 10 March when authorities made the decision to ban family visits to prisons as part of what they say are measures to mitigate the effects of coronavirus.

Patrick Zaki, a researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, was arrested in February this year when he arrived in Cairo airport, taken to an unknown location and beaten and tortured with electric shocks, according to this lawyer.

He is being investigated for spreading false news and misusing social media.

Zaki was on his way to see his family for a holiday after travelling from Bologna in northern Italy where he is studying for his postgraduate.

His arrest put renewed pressure on the Egypt-Italy relationship, which has flourished in recent years despite the severe human rights abuses being carried out in Egypt.

READ: Egypt renews detention of mother of 2-year-old

Activists have decried a $10 billion potential arms deal between the two countries as the murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni remains unsolved.

Experts say the arms deal is compensation for his death.

The postponement of Zaki’s renewal session comes at the same time Italy’s oil giant Eni announced it made a new gas discovery off the coast of the Egyptian Nile Delta.

Eni discovered the biggest gas field, Zohr, in 2015 off the Egyptian Mediterranean coast. It was developing the field when Giulio Regeni’s tortured and battered body was dumped on the Cairo-Alexandria road.

The Zohr gas field is worth around $6.4 billion to Eni.

Italy, along with other European countries, has been criticised for pursuing deals in the gas sector and putting money above people despite the rights violations taking place in Egypt.

The Egyptian regime has targeted human rights defenders in an unprecedented crackdown that has seen some 60,000 political prisoners locked up in jails.

The issue has become even more pressing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic for fear the virus will spread rapidly and easily in the unhygienic, overcrowded cells.

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