“The preventive detention for Patrick Zaki has been renewed. Yet another renewal that leaves no room for doubt: his detention is a judicial overreach #freepatrickzaki”
Amnesty International Italy tweeted the news delivered by Hoda Nasrallah, the Egyptian lawyer representing the university student from Bologna, to whom his adoptive city has already granted honorary citizenship.
On Tuesday, it proved to be of no use to send a representative of the Italian embassy in Egypt, especially since in the Cairo court where yet another hearing took place for the renewal of Zaki’s pre-trial detention, our diplomat, as well as others, including the lawyer from the European Union, were not even allowed to enter. It was a slap in the face to human rights, and also to the relations with Rome, despite—or maybe because of—the special treatment reserved by Italian and European institutions to the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The PD deputy Laura Boldrini hit the nail on the head: “How long will this violation of human rights last? The time for words is over. Our country must be consistent and give a clear signal. Egypt is the top importer of Italian weapons: let’s stop the trade!”
Indeed, because not only is the regime of Al-Sisi the most important trading partner of Italian manufacturers of weapons and warships, but, as reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in the last five years the Egyptian government has become the third largest arms importer in the world after Saudi Arabia and India, buying 136% more weapons than in the previous five years.
And now Patrick Zaki, arrested for “subversive propaganda on the Internet” by the Egyptian authorities at Cairo airport on February 7, 2020, will turn 30 years old in a squalid cell in the notorious Tora prison. His detention was called “illegitimate” by LeU deputy Erasmo Palazzotto, head of the Chamber commission of inquiry on the murder of Giulio Regeni. “Unacceptable. Inhuman,” tweeted Palazzotto. “We can no longer stand by and watch.”
There are many members of the majority supporting the government who have commented on this new proof of arrogance on the part of the Egyptian authorities, publicly urging their own government (as clearly they cannot find the space or attention to do so through the political and institutional channels) to not delay any further and to act decisively once and for all. “The Italian strategy based on small steps and diplomatic relations is not yielding results,” is the analysis of the Democrat MEP Pierfrancesco Majorino. “From the European Parliament, we’re proposing something different, through the resolution voted on December 18: no more weapons to Egypt. No more half measures.”
He is echoed by his colleague Giuliano Pisapia, who asked the Draghi government to “follow up on the position taken by the European Parliament” and finalize the process for granting Italian (and consequently European) citizenship to Patrick, “so as to have a stronger standing in calling for his return to our country.” Senator Monica Cirinnà, in charge of Human Rights for the Democratic Party, announced that she will go to President Mattarella, together with all the members of the Human Rights Commission of the Senate, to speed up this process. In support of the initiative of granting Italian citizenship to Patrick, there is a petition on Change.org launched in January by the Station to Station community and 6,000 Sardine, which currently has 264,000 signatures, including about 56,000 signatories from Spain, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
As the M5S MEP Sabrina Pignedoli stressed in a statement, Egypt is “compromising its relations with the entire European Union. In the light of these events,” she adds, “we ask Joseph Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to consider a strong stance towards Egypt that would also include the use of sanctions.”
There is the hope, at least from a part of Italian public opinion, that they won’t have to witness yet again the same dance of broken promises and indignation in another 45 days.