David Gritten of BBC News writes that Coptic Christian activist Patrick Zaki was convicted in Egypt over a recent article he wrote about his life as a Copt in the Muslim-majority nation. He was sentenced to three years in prison for “spreading false news.” A vocal human rights activist, Zaki was previously in custody for nearly two years after returning from his studies in Italy in 2020.
Egypt’s President Sisi came to power in a military-backed coup in 2013 and has often stifled dissent by arresting thousands of government critics.
The EIPR’s executive director, Hossam Bahgat, called the verdict a “travesty of justice” and called on President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to annul it.
“This is a regime that tells the world that it has been the best ever in the history of Egypt for the rights of Coptic Christians. Yet, here we have a human rights defender recounting a week in his life as a Coptic Christian and being prosecuted and convicted for it,” he told Reuters news agency
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy, which has been watching the case closely amid widespread public attention there, said her government remained committed to a “positive solution”. “We are still confident,” she added.
Egypt’s government has carried out what rights groups have described as a relentless crackdown on any form of dissent since President Sisi led the military’s overthrow of his democratically-elected predecessor in 2013. They say tens of thousands of government critics have been detained arbitrarily.
Patrick Zaki had been studying for a master’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Bologna when he decided to return to Egypt for a short family visit in February 2020.
The 32-year-old’s lawyers said he was detained by the National Security Agency at Cairo International Airport and held The EIPR said the article – titled Displacement, Killing and Restriction: A Week’s Diaries of Egypt’s Copts – described his experiences as a Coptic Egyptian and his views on current events affecting the religious minority.
The group asserted that Zaki was simply expressing his opinion and that the prosecution infringed on his basic rights.
Zaki pleaded not guilty to the charge at the start of his trial at the Emergency State Security Court in Mansoura in September 2021. Three months later, the court ordered his release on bail – a decision Italy’s government welcomed. incommunicado for 24 hours before being transferred to his home city of Mansoura.