Egyptian police have arrested 28-year-old human rights activist Patrick George Zaki after he spoke out against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s government. Lawyers for Zaki told the Italian press that the student – who is studying in Bologna, Italy – was detained at Cairo International Airport on Friday February 7, 2020 and roughed up by police. He is still in custody. Zaki had recently waged a campaign in Italy for greater transparency into the death of Italian Cambridge grad student Giulio Regeni, who was tortured and killed in Cairo in 2016 after researching opposition politicians and labor unions in Cairo. Zaki’s arrest is being described as a product of an unprecedented crackdown on dissident voices. Zaki had taken leave from the NGO Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights to work on the Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies (GEMMA) at the University of Bologna.
The airport immigration officers arbitrarily arrested and tortured human rights defender Patrick Zaki George at 4:30 am upon his arrival at Cairo airport on charges including “disseminating false news”, “inciting protest without permission”, “calling for the state to be overthrown”, “managing a social media account that aims to undermine the social order and public safety” and “incitement to violence and terrorist crimes”. In detention, National Security Agency officers questioned and tortured him before he appeared in front of the prosecutor the following day.
The Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies (GEMMA), coordinated by the University of Granada (Spain) with the participation of the University of Bologna, Central European University, University of Lodz, University of Oviedo, University of Utrecht and University of York and the support of the European Union, expresses its utmost concern about the safety of one of its students, Mr Patrick George Zaki, who was detained on February 7, 2020 upon his arrival to Egypt for a short visit to his family.
We urge the Egyptian government to immediately and unconditionally release Patrick George Zaki, and that, while in custody, it is ensured that he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment and that he has access to his lawyers and family. We also demand that all necessary measures to prevent further threats and attacks against students, researchers, academics, journalists and human rights defenders are taken.
On Saturday February 15, 2020 an Egyptian court rejected Patrick George Zaki’s appeal to be released from detention, according to human rights group the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, where Zaki previously worked as a gender rights researcher. The appeal court in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura – Zaki’s hometown – ruled that the researcher will remain in detention pending an investigation. Patrick will continue to be detained on remand until the 22nd of February where he is set to stand before a prosecutor again.
Read the statement of the GEMMA Consortium here.
Read the statement of the University of Bologna here.
Read the statement of the GEMMA students here.
See here for all the press releases concerning Patrick George Zaki.
See here David Sassoli, European Parliament President commenting on Patrick’s arrest.
You can sign the petition on Change.org here.
See the website of Amnesty International for a letter that you can sent to the Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi.
See here the Facebookpage of GEMMA, the Erasmus Mundus Master in Women’s and Gender Studies.
See here for an article in DUB, the independent news site of Utrecht University (Dutch only).
On Monday February 17 at 6 pm all GEMMA partners will organise a protest in their respective cities. In Utrecht we’ll gather at the Janskerkhof in front of the Anne Frank statue. Feel free to join us and ask for the immediate and unconditional release of Patrick and for an independent investigation into the torture he has suffered. We urge the Egyptian authorities to also ensure that – pending his release – he is granted access to his lawyers, family and medical care; and that he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment. We finally urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for defending human rights and for peacefully expressing their opinions. See you all on Monday with protest signs, banners and whatever signs of solidarity you have! Please spread the word through social media and put pressure on the Egyptian authorities #freepatrickzaki
See the Facebook event here.
On Wednesday February 19 at 5.30 pm Amnesty International Vlaanderen will protest in front of the Egyptian Embassy at the Uruguaylaan 19 in Brussels. See the Facebook event here.