After 19 months of preventive imprisonment without legal justification, renewed 45 days at a time, Patrick Zaki was transferred on Tuesday morning from the maximum security prison of Tora, south of Cairo, to Mansoura, his hometown located 130 km to the north, where the trial against him began.
As no evidence has been found of the “subversive propaganda” of which he had been accused by the prosecutors, whose claims involved posts published on a Facebook account that the defense had refuted, the Egyptian researcher, who had been living in Bologna since September 2019 and studying at the Alma Mater University with a prestigious Erasmus Mundus scholarship, and who was arrested as soon as he got off the plane when he returned home on a vacation on February 7, 2020, is now being tried for “an article published on Daraj, in July 2019, titled “Displacement, Killing and Restriction: A Week’s Diaries of Egypt’s Copts,”’ reads the Patrick Libero Facebook page. He faces a possible sentence of five years in prison, and there will be no possibility of an appeal.
“The article presents a week in Zaki’s life as an Coptic Egyptian reacting to current events concerning Egyptian Christians, both as a public and personal issue of interest,” reports the text signed by a dozen human rights organizations, condemning the Egyptian judges’ decision and noting “the irony that Zaki’s indictment and trial before an exceptional court comes the day after the launch of the state’s human rights strategy, in an event in which the president has spoken at length about the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to equality.”
After being subjected to interrogations on July 13 and September 9, the charge of terrorism was dropped, and Zaki is now being tried on only one of the original charges: “spreading false news inside and outside of the country.” His trial began before the State Security Court II for minor (emergency) offenses of Mansoura, on the basis of Articles 80 (D) and 102 (B) of the Penal Code.
However, as Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy, told il manifesto, not even Patrick’s lawyer, Hoda Nasrallah, had been informed as of Monday night about exactly where and when the trial would take place. A hearing had been called for 9 a.m. local (and Italian) time, but “we don’t know if it will be open, in order to allow a representative of the Italian embassy to attend, or before which court, whether civil or military.” Unfortunately, this was to be expected, because, as Noury pointed out, “it is clear that the Egyptian prosecutor’s office, as the time of preventive detention drew closer to 24 months, decided to pull out something from the enormous pile of supposed secret evidence, which was never made available to the defense, to justify the start of a trial.”
In June, Patrick Zaki turned 30. He was being held in one of the worst Egyptian prisons, where torture is an everyday occurrence. In July, in the letter he sent to his girlfriend, Patrick wrote that he already expected that he would be put on trial, “and it is much worse than I expected.” Today, as the secretary of Sinistra Italiana, Nicola Fratoianni, is accusing, what is most disconcerting is “the thunderous silence of the Draghi government” which “only makes the situation worse,” especially “because we continue to sell weapons to the al-Sisi regime.”
On Tuesday morning, according to the Patrick Libero page, the first hearing of Patrick’s trial took place as scheduled, in the presence of his legal team, as well as “representatives from the embassies of Italy, Germany & Canada and a lawyer from the EU.” The judge ruled to postpone the session to September 28, in order to allow the defense to have access to the case files. Patrick was given an opportunity to speak, and he maintained that he was innocent of the charges against him.
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