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Egyptian researcher will 'return to Italy' following presidential pardon - Italian PM

Italian-Egyptian researcher Patrick Zaki arrives at a courthouse in Egypt's northern Nile delta city of Mansoura for a trial hearing on June 21, 2022.   -  
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MOHAMED EL-RAAI/AFP or licensors


Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday (Jul. 19) pardoned an unspecified number of people, including researcher Patrick Zaki, official reports say.

Mr Zaki was sentenced on Tuesday (Jul. 18) to three years in prison by the court in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura taken into custody from the courtroom directly after the verdict, a group which represented the researcher in court had said.

The man was convicted of "disseminating false news" related to an article of his about alleged discrimination against the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt.

Zaki worked with the group as a gender rights researcher.

Zaki's case has echoed in Italy, where many were reminded after the sentencing this week of the tragic fate of Italian student Giulio Regeni who was abducted and killed in Cairo in 2016.

Zaki was arrested in February 2020 shortly after landing in Cairo for a short trip home from Italy where he was studying at the University of Bologna.

 The Italian government had repeatedly called for his release.

He was released in December 2021 after spending 22 months in pretrial detention but had to remain in Egypt and was not allowed to travel abroad, pending trial.

Zaki earned a master’s degree with distinction earlier this month as he defended his thesis by videoconference.

The Italian senate voted to grant him Italian citizenship when he was in imprisonned.

Tuesday’s verdict couldn't have been appealed according to Egyptian state media Ahram, because the sentence was handed by a high emergency state security court.

However, the president has the prerogative to not ratify these verdicts or grant pardons to those convicted by these emergency courts

The verdict had prompted several human rights figures to quit the contested national dialogue launched by the government.

Mohamed al-Baqer, the lawyer of Alaa Abdel Fattah, Egypt's most notorious political prisoner was also pardoned Egypt's Presidential Pardon Committee announced.


"Tomorrow Patrick Zaki will be in Italy and I wish him from the bottom of my heart a life of serenity and success," Premier Giorgia Meloni said in a video message on Wednesday (Jul. 19) evening, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

“We welcome the news of their pardon and call for the immediate release of thousands still detained in Egypt on political grounds,” prominent rights activist Hossam Bahgat wrote on Twitter.

He added that both activists “should not have spent one day in jail for their human rights work.” Bahgat is the executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which represented Zaki in court.

In Italy, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani welcomed el-Sissi's decision to pardon Zaki. “Thanks to the government’s foreign policy we have given a decisive contribution to freeing this young student. Concrete results through work and international credibility,” he tweeted.

Jubilation also resounded from the ranks of Italian opposition lawmakers following the pardon news.

Egypt has pardoned dozens of detainees in the past several months, after its human rights record came under international scrutiny when it hosted the U.N. climate change summit in November.

Thousands of political prisoners are estimated by rights groups to remain in custody in the north African country, many without trial.

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