By Coptic Solidarity – for immediate release –
UPDATE: On July 19, president Al-Sisi issued a decree to pardon “a number of convicted persons,” including Patrick Zaki. This clearly comes after a huge, and probably unexpected, outcry condemning the verdict.
An Emergency State Security court in Egypt, on July 18, sentenced Patrick George Zaki to three years in prison. He was immediately taken into custody following the verdict. Coming from such a special court, the verdict cannot be appealed.
Coptic Solidarity condemns with utmost firmness this preposterous verdict against Patrick Zaki, whose only “crime” was to publish an opinion article about discrimination the Copts face in Egypt. It is simply an insult to the most basic notion of justice.
We also call upon international public opinion, institutions, organizations and governmental partners to condemn the deplorable verdict and pressure Egypt to expediently issue a presidential pardon for Zaki.
On February 7, 2020, authorities arrested Zaki, a post-graduate student and human rights researcher in the Italian University of Bologna, at Cairo Airport, upon his arrival home to Egypt from Italy. Later, he was charged with “spreading false information,” and allegedly “joining a terrorist organization.”
Zaki was reportedly beaten, stripped, and electrocuted by authorities before appearing with prosecutors. He was also verbally abused and threatened with sexual assault.
In September 2021, Zaki was indicted for “spreading false news inside and outside of the country.” In his opinion article, published in 2019, and titled “Displacement, Killing and Restriction: A Week’s Diaries of Egypt’s Copts,” Zaki was reacting to events impacting Coptic Christians in the country.
On December 7, 2021, the Mansoura Emergency State Security Court ordered Zaki’s release pending trial, but he was not allowed to leave the country. He followed his studies remotely, and successfully obtained his master’s degree only two weeks ago, after discussing his thesis via a video-link.
As he expressed through his social media page, Zaki went to the courtroom full of hope to be acquitted and finally allowed to freely travel abroad. To his shock, and the cries of his mother and his fiancé, the severe verdict fell upon him. Even though the verdict must be (technically!) ratified by the president, Zaki was taken directly to prison.
The president of Italy’s (ruling) Democratic Party, Stefano Bonaccini,lamented “the terrible news (..) of a young man who is paying with his freedom for the mere fact of expressing his opinion.” He declared: “Now more than ever we will continue to ask for his release, so that he can return to Bologna.”
It is said that the verdict against Zaki may be meant to be used to pressure Italy, in order to drop the case against Egyptian security officials accused of abducting and torturing to death, in 2016, the Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni. If true, such disgusting maneuvers can only worsen the already poor image of Egypt’s brutal regime.