Egypt President pardons Christian human rights activist
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) acclaimed the new pardons "as a confirmation of the political leadership's determination to move forward with the advancement of the human rights situation in the country."
33-year-old Patrick George Zaki, a well-known Coptic Christian human rights researcher, got arrested in 2020 upon his return from studying in Italy. They held him in pretrial detention but then released him in December 2021. However, the Mansoura High Emergency State Security Court sentenced him to three years in prison on charges of spreading false news inside and outside the country on Tuesday the 18th of July. The U.S. State Department and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns about his conviction and called for his release.
Zaki drew the authorities’ attention to himself with an article he wrote in 2019 titled: “Displacement, Killing and Restriction: A Week’s Diaries of Egypt’s Copts.” It was a first-hand diary narration of what it is like to be a Coptic Christian minority in Egypt.
According to his lawyer, Samuel Tharwat, National Security Agency (NSA) officers kept Zaki blindfolded and handcuffed during his 17-hour interrogation. Authorities also allegedly stripped, beat, electrocuted and threatened him with sexual assault.
El-Baqer, a prominent human rights lawyer, has been serving a four-year sentence after he was convicted in December 2021, also by an emergency state security court, of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news inside and outside the country. They held him in detention in September 2019 before he stood trial and was sentenced. The court upheld a previous ruling to place him and others on the country’s terrorism list for a five-year period in November 2022.
Abraham Cooper, the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) expressed his disappointment and called for the immediate release of these unlawfully detained citizens: “USCIRF maintains a crucial victims list of those in prison for their beliefs or advocacy on behalf of religious freedom worldwide. Unfortunately, that list has now surpassed 2,000 entries. We call for Zaki’s immediate release just as we do for all victims of such religious freedom and human rights violations. And I know we’re in the right location to first bring this to the attention of the American people.”
President El-Sisi issued a number of pardons for high-profile activists who were serving sentences after receiving final verdicts in a number of cases since April 2022. The Public Prosecution also released hundreds of political activists who were in pretrial detentions.