Report. Egyptian prosecutors say the Italian student Patrick Zaki must stay behind bars without trial because of the coronavirus emergency. However, the risks are likely greater for him in jail.

Patrick Zaki remains in pre-trial prison, with courts citing coronavirus

Patrick Zaki remains behind bars after the pre-trial detention hearing that was due to take place on Monday was postponed once again.

This week, for the fifth consecutive time, the Cairo Security Prosecutor’s office postponed the hearing that will decide on whether to interrupt or extend his pre-trial detention for another week, citing the coronavirus emergency and the impossibility of transferring him from prison to the court

Patrick has been in preventive detention—a measure commonly abused by the Egyptian authorities against political prisoners—since Feb. 7, when he was arrested at Cairo airport, although he was officially detained only the following day.

The young Egyptian student from the University of Bologna is being held in the infamous Tora prison, and his family has had no possibility to see him since March 9.

Once again, the pretext for this is the epidemic, an emergency which is dangerous enough for the Egyptian authorities to ban family visits, but not dangerous enough to empty the overcrowded prisons, where around 60,000 political prisoners have been held for years.

The risk of mass contagion is very high, in dirty, small cells with a lack of proper ventilation and sunlight. And there is ever-growing concern about Zaki, who has asthma.

Meanwhile, in the outside world, the nightly curfew continues, as well as the closure of schools, mosques, bars, restaurants, and—most relevant to Zaki’s case—courthouses until April 23, unless further extended. As of Tuesday, there were 2,190 coronavirus cases recorded in Egypt, with 164 deaths.

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