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Egypt postpones trial of rights researcher Patrick Zaki

Egyptian researcher Patrick Zaki is pictured next to a dog at his family home in Cairo, on 9 December 2021, following his release earlier in the week. [MOHAMED EL-RAAI/AFP via Getty Images]
Egyptian researcher Patrick Zaki is pictured next to a dog at his family home in Cairo, on 9 December 2021, following his release earlier in the week. [MOHAMED EL-RAAI/AFP via Getty Images]

An Egyptian court today postponed to 6 April the trial of Patrick Zaki, a rights researcher who had been studying in Italy and was accused of spreading false information in an article he wrote about Egypt's Christians.

Zaki was scheduled to be tried in an emergency state security court for allegedly spreading false news for an article he wrote in 2019, "Displacement, Killing and Harassment: A Week in the Diaries of Egypt's Copts" which detailed discrimination against the Christian minority.

Zaki was studying for his masters at the University of Bologna when he was arrested on a trip home to visit his family in 2020 when he was arrested and tortured by Egyptian security officers whilst being held incommunicado.

After 22 months and an international campaign Zaki was released in December last year. In April the Italian Senate voted to grant Zaki honorary Italian citizenship to help speed up his release.

Several human rights organisations, including Scholars at Risk, are urging Egyptian authorities to drop all charges against Zaki so he can fly back to Bologna and complete his master's programme.

Italy's prime minister welcomed the decision to release him and said his government would closely watch the case.

The trial was postponed to allow for legal proceedings, the judicial source said, without giving further details.

"It's an incredibly long wait for Patrick to finally have his freedom," Amnesty International Italy spokesman Riccardo Noury told Italian news agency ANSA. He said Zaki's supporters should "accompany him in this long wait to what we hope will be the last hearing."

Patrick's case has underscored the plight of Egyptian political prisoners. Thousands have been jailed in Egypt since 2013 where they are systematically tortured, denied medical attention, and sentenced to death at an alarming rate.

READ: Egypt uses probation to extend 'humiliating' control over opponents

In October last year Amnesty International called on Egypt to stop trials by emergency court including Alaa Abdelfattah, his lawyer Mohamed Baqer and the blogger known as Oxygen where they would face politically motivated charges.

Defendants at ESSCs are not allowed to appeal their convictions and defendants often report that they are prevented from communicating with a lawyer they have chosen.

The Egyptian government announced it was dropping the state of emergency in Egypt in October last year which was put in place after twin bombings killed at least 47 people in 2017 and was continuously renewed.

However, authorities said they would no longer be able to refer new cases to emergency courts but that people who had already been referred would continue to be tried in them.

The lifting of the state of emergency has been criticised by human rights activists as a ruse to improve Egypt's human rights image for the benefit of the international community whilst continuing to carry out rights violations.

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