Scholars at Risk sent the below letter to Egyptian authorities calling for them to take any available action to drop all charges against Mr. Patrick George Zaki, secure his unconditional release, and allow Mr. Zaki to fly back to Italy, so he may continue his Master’s program at the University of Bologna. On February 1, Mr. Zaki will be brought before the Emergency State Security Court for a charge of “spreading false news inside and outside of the country.” If convicted, Mr. Zaki faces up to five years in prison and would be stripped of his right to appeal.
You can support Mr. Zaki by signing SAR’s letter of appeal or writing to your government representatives, urging them to engage with their Egyptian counterparts on behalf of Mr. Zaki.
Via email to the Honorable Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
President, Arab Republic of Egypt
January 27, 2022
RE: Release Patrick George Zaki to Enable him to Complete his Master’s Program
I write on behalf of Scholars at Risk to express grave concern for Mr. Patrick George Zaki, a postgraduate student at the University of Bologna, Italy, where he is pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies. On February 1, 2022, Mr. Zaki will be brought before the Emergency State Security Court for a charge of “spreading false news inside and outside of the country.” If convicted, Mr. Zaki faces up to five years in prison and would be stripped of his right to appeal. I therefore respectfully urge you to take any available action to drop all charges against Mr. Zaki, secure his unconditional release, and allow Mr. Zaki to fly back to Bologna so he may complete his Master’s program.
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of more than 500 universities and colleges in 42 countries dedicated to protecting the human rights of scholars around the world, and to raising awareness, understanding of, and respect for the principles of academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of expression, opinion, thought, association, and travel. In cases like this, involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, SAR investigates, hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.
SAR last wrote to you on October 8, 2021, seeking Mr. Zaki’s release in light of the indictment against him. Nearly two years have passed since February 7, 2020, when Mr. Zaki was arrested, interrogated, and tortured by the Egyptian National Security Agency. During the nineteen months that followed, authorities extended Mr. Zaki’s detention several times.
On September 13, 2021, the State Security Supreme Prosecution indicted Mr. Zaki with a charge of “spreading false news inside and outside of the country,” based on an article Mr. Zaki wrote about his experiences as a Coptic Egyptian. The article, titled “Displacement, Killing, and Restriction: A week’s diaries of Egypt’s Copts,” was published in Daraj in July 2019. Since then, Mr. Zaki’s trial has been postponed three times. While SAR welcomed the news that Mr. Zaki was finally released from pre-trial detention on December 7, SAR remains concerned that Mr. Zaki still faces this charge and the threat of a lengthy prison sentence.
I welcome any additional information that may explain these events or clarify my understanding. Absent this, Mr. Zaki’s detention, reports of torture, judicial harassment, and prosecution—in retaliation for exercising his right to free expression—suggest a troubling disregard for international standards of due process, fair trial, and the humane treatment of prisoners, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party.
I therefore respectfully urge you to take any available action to drop all charges against Mr. Zaki, secure his unconditional release, and allow Mr. Zaki to fly back to Bologna so he may complete his Master’s program.
I appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your reply.
Minister Mahmoud Tawfik
Ministry of Interior, Arab Republic of Egypt
The Honorable Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim
Minister of Justice, Arab Republic of Egypt
The Honorable Michelle Bachelet
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Honorable Mr. Amr Mostafa Kamal Helmly
Ambassador of Egypt to Italy
His Excellency Mr. Alaa Youssef
Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations Office
The Honorable Irene Khan
Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
The Honorable Mary Lawlor
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
The Honorable Luigi Di Maio
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Italian Republic
The Honorable Stefania Pucciarelli
President of the Senate, Italian Republic Commission for Human Rights
The Honorable Roberta Metsola
President, European Parliament
The Honorable Eamon Gilmore
EU Special Representative for Human Rights
The Honorable Antony J. Blinken
U.S. Secretary of State
The Honorable James Cleverly
Minister of State (Minister for Middle East, North Africa and North America)