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Fresh calls to give Patrick Zaki Italian citizenship as he 'celebrates' 30th birthday in Egypt prison

Activists during a protest for the release of Patrick Zaki on 7 February 2021 in Pontecagnano Faiano, Italy. [Ivan Romano/Getty Images]
Activists during a protest for the release of Patrick Zaki on 7 February 2021 in Pontecagnano Faiano, Italy. [Ivan Romano/Getty Images]

Egyptian political prisoner Patrick George Zaki has spent this 30th birthday in prison, 16 months after he was detained.

Zaki was studying for his master's at the University of Bologna in Italy and came back to Egypt to visit his family in February 2020.

He was arrested at the airport, interrogated about his human rights work, beaten and tortured by electric shock.

He has been accused of "disseminating false news" and "incitement to protest."

Zaki has been in pretrial detention since February 2020, with his detention repeatedly renewed despite protests from human rights groups.

In April, Italy's upper house Senate voted overwhelmingly to give Zaki Italian citizenship after repeated calls for his release, including from the European Parliament, Amnesty International and Scholars Risk, were ignored.

A man shows a photograph of Patrick Zaki during a demonstration in solidarity with Patrick Zaki and human rights activists detained around the world on 16 June 2021 in Naples, Italy. [Ivan Romano/Getty Images]

A man shows a photograph of Patrick Zaki during a demonstration in solidarity with Patrick Zaki and human rights activists detained around the world on 16 June 2021 in Naples, Italy. [Ivan Romano/Getty Images]

On his birthday Italian politicians are reiterating that call and have asked the government to "apply the unanimous indication of parliament and give him citizenship," according to the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party and former Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

READ: Head of rights group called for interrogation by Egypt prosecutors

The Democratic Party's governor, Stefano Bonaccini, said, "today Patrick Zaki marks his birthday and for the second time will 'celebrate' it in prison. All this is unacceptable and we will continue to strongly call for his release and the conferral of Italian citizenship."

"We want Patrick to come back and study here in Bologna," he added.

Zaki was studying women and gender studies at the Italian university and was also researching gender issues and human rights for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

The Cairo-based EIPR has been cracked down on by the Egyptian government as part of its move to quash criticism of its human rights violations.

EIPR Director Hossam Bahgat was interrogated by Egypt's public prosecution yesterday over charges related to free expression, the third criminal case against him.

Last year, three senior EIPR executives were arrested after they met foreign diplomats to discuss the human rights crisis in Egypt.

They were released following a major international campaign, yet Zaki remained behind bars.

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