Egypt: Bologna post-graduate student Patrick Zaki referred to emergency court

Egyptian rights groups have denounced the referral of Bologna University post-graduate student and researcher to emergency court

Ten Egyptian human rights organizations on Tuesday denounced the State Security Prosecution’s decision to refer Patrick George Zaki, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, to trial before the Emergency Court on charges of “spreading false news at home and abroad”.

The first session of Patrick’s trial was held yesterday before the State Security Misdemeanors Court (Emergency) Second Division, Mansoura, in accordance with Articles 80 (d) and 102 of the Penal Code.

According to the State Security Prosecution, the accusation is based on an article published in July 2019, titled “Displacement, Killing and Restriction: A Week’s Diaries of Egypt’s Copts”. 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.

The human rights organisations said in their statement: “Trying Zaki bfore an exceptional court, whose rulings are not subject to appeal, on “charges” of publishing an article in which he recounts his life as a Christian Egyptian, and after 19 months of remand detention without legal justification, proves that the only reason for denying Zaki his freedom is his practice of his right to free speech in defense of his rights, and the rights of all Egyptians — and especially christian Egyptians — to equality and full citizenship.”

The statement added that the “organisations condemn this attack on Patrick George Zaki, and recognise it as an infringement on the rights of all Egyptians to freedom of expression, and the rights of Christian Egyptians in particular to demand their right to equality both socially and in front of the law.”

“We can not ignore 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,” the rights groups concluded.

The statement was signed by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), the Committee for Justice (CFJ), the Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), El-Nadeem Centre for Combatting Violence and Torture, the Freedom Initiative, the Egyptian Front For Human Rights and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP).

Rights groups denounce Egypt military aid

Egyptian human rights groups have denounced the administration of US President Joe Biden’s decision to grant Egypt $170 million in military aid to the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, accusing the administration of giving license to his government to continue perpetrating rights violations without fear of consequences.

Two days ago, Middle East Observer reported that the Biden administration decided to withhold part of the aid over human rights concerns.

However, in a statement published today, 14 human rights groups described the decision as a “terrible blow to the Biden administration’s stated commitment to human rights and to the rule of law”.

The groups claimed that the decision proved that Biden’s dedication to human rights was not sincere, adding: “By immediately releasing $170 million and temporarily withholding the remaining $130 million, the administration sidesteps the intent of Congress, which passed legislation clearly stating that $300 million in US military aid should be withheld until Egypt has taken steps to strengthen the rule of law, implement reforms that protect basic freedoms, and hold Egyptian security forces accountable.”

The statement was signed by the Committee for Justice (CFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Egyptian Front for Human Rights, Egyptian Human Rights Forum, EuroMed Rights, the Freedom Initiative, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), MENA Rights Group, PEN America, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP).

The groups called on the US Congress to pressure Biden not to repeat such a decision in the future and to state that the decision violates congressional intent, threatens the human rights of Egyptians, and further weakens the US’ position on rights issues.