Egypt Court Orders Release of Rights Activist Patrick George Zaki After Trial Postponed

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An Egyptian graduate studying in Italy, Zaki was arrested in February 2020 and accused of spreading false news about Egypt

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A court in Mansoura, a city north of the Egyptian capital, on Tuesday adjourned Mr Zaki’s trial until February 1, to give prosecutors and defense lawyers more time to prepare their arguments, according to the EIPR. According. He still faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

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Egyptian officials have not commented on Mr Zaki’s case.

The Zaki case has exposed Egypt’s human rights record under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi. Government crackdowns on political opponents have imprisoned thousands of people since the 2013 military coup that brought Mr Sisi to power, according to human rights groups. Some political prisoners are held without charge for years under Egypt’s system of pre-trial detention.

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Human rights advocates say security forces have also committed thousands of disappearances and hundreds of extrajudicial killings of opponents and suspected militants. The government has denied wrongdoing.

The Egyptian government’s push to silence activists and critics has drawn sharp condemnation from the Biden administration, which has sought to make human rights and democracy touchstones of its foreign policy. It has been a significant source of friction between the two governments, even as Washington works with Cairo on thorny regional security problems and other areas.

The Zaki case has also resonated strongly in Italy after a diplomatic crisis broke out between the two countries following the murder of an Italian doctoral student in Egypt in 2016. There have been several demonstrations in Italian cities demanding his release, and banners bearing the face of Mr. Zaki and the slogan “Freedom for Zaki” are a familiar sight in Italy.

Mr Zaki’s plight has brought back memories of the case of Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old Italian doctoral student who was found dead on the side of a highway near Cairo in 2016. He had cigarette burns, broken teeth and broken bones all over his body. He was missing for several days. Italian authorities have so far unsuccessfully tried to prosecute four Egyptian security officials, whom they have accused of torturing and killing Mr.

On Tuesday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi expressed his satisfaction about Mr Zaki’s release, and said his government would continue to follow his case closely. “First goal achieved: Patrick Zaki is no longer in prison. We will now continue to work quietly with perseverance and commitment. A big thank you to our diplomatic corps,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a tweet.

Mr Sisi, considered a strong leader, was elected president in 2014. In 2018 he garnered more than 90% of the vote in an election when officials jailed and sidelined potential challengers. In 2019, his supporters pushed for constitutional amendments that would enhance his rule.

Egypt announced a new human rights strategy in September. The country’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said in November that the new strategy was “unmistakable evidence of our determination and resolve to forge our way towards a modern democratic state.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the US wants to see changes to Egypt’s pre-trial detention rules.

Giovanni Legorano [email protected] . Feather

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