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Civil Society Condemns Sentencing of Egyptian Academic and Researcher Patrick George Zaki

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and individuals, condemn the three-year prison sentence handed down to human rights researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and academic Patrick George Zaki for his writings highlighting the hardship and discrimination faced by Coptic Christians in Egypt, such as himself. 

On July 18, 2023, following a trial rife with due process violations, an Egyptian emergency state security court handed down a three-year prison sentence to Patrick on trumped up charges of spreading false news. Patrick, who was a graduate student at the University of Bologna at the time, was arrested by Egyptian authorities on February 7, 2020, while at the Cairo Airport during a visit home to see his family. In custody, he was held incommunicado for a 24-hour period; he was beaten, stripped, electrocuted, verbally abused, and threatened. He was initially accused of joining a terrorist organization and spreading false news. In September 2021, lawyers learned that he had been referred to emergency state security court on false news charges for a 2019 article that he authored for independent digital media outlet Daraj on his experience as a Coptic Christian religious minority, titled, “Displacement, Killing & Harassment: A Week in the Diaries of Egypt’s Copts.” On December 7, 2021, following 22 months behind bars, he was ordered released from detention pending trial, and placed on travel ban. His trial continued until the July 2023 verdict, following which he was taken back into custody today. 

Verdicts handed down by an emergency court are not subject to legal appeal, only to ratification by the President. The President also has the authority to commute the sentence or to quash the verdict. Furthermore, under Circular No. 10 of 2017 governing emergency state security courts, “If the accused is brought to trial while not in custody and sentenced to a prison penalty, he must be released immediately without executing the penalty pending the decision of the ratifying authority.” Per this provision, Patrick must legally be free while the President considers ratification; for Egyptian authorities to have taken him into custody constitutes a clear violation of this circular.

The targeting, arrest, prosecution, and sentencing of Patrick Zaki for writing about his experiences as a Coptic Christian is an egregious measure by Egyptian authorities that is indicative of a larger failure by the state to protect religious minorities. Instead, the authorities target Copts for merely expressing themselves and bringing attention to the discrimination they regularly endure. This sentence occurs in violation of Egypt’s domestic laws and international legal commitments, and sends a clear message that the Egyptian government is not serious about implementing its national human rights strategy or carrying out a meaningful national dialogue. At a time during which Egyptian authorities should be addressing the dire economic crisis, this step raises severe questions on the trajectory of the country. 

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and individuals, call on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi not to ratify the verdict handed down to Patrick Zaki and instead to quash it in its entirety. We call on Egyptian authorities to immediately release Patrick Zaki from custody, to drop all charges and close all cases brought against him in their entirety, and to lift the travel ban brought against him. We urge all of Egypt’s international, multilateral, and government partners to press the Egyptian government to immediately release Patrick and cease persecuting him for his legally protected speech and vital human rights work.

Organizational signatories

  • Access Now
  • Alternative Press Syndicate
  • Amnesty International
  • Arab Reform Initiative
  • Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • Campaign Against Arms Trade
  • Center for International Policy
  • CNCD-11.11.11
  • Committee for Justice
  • Daraj
  • Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  • DIGNITY Danish Institute Against Torture
  • Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
  • Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
  • Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)
  • Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
  • EgyptWide for Human Rights
  • El Nadim Center
  • EuroMed Rights
  • European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH)
  • FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • Human Rights First
  • Human Rights Watch
  • HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
  • INSM for Digital Rights
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • Intersection Association for Rights and Freedoms
  • Kawaakibi Foundation
  • Lebanese Center for Human Rights – CLDH
  • Ligue tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH)
  • MENA Rights Group
  • No Peace Without Justice
  • Organisation Contre la Torture en Tunisie
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
  • Refugees Platform in Egypt (RPE)
  • Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  • Scholars at Risk
  • Shadow World Investigations
  • Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR)
  • SMEX
  • Start Point
  • Taafi initiative
  • The Freedom Initiative 
  • The Legal Agenda
  • The Syria Campaign
  • The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
  • The Tunisian National Committee for the Defense of Freedoms and Democracy
  • World Liberty Congress
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Individual Signatories

  • Alaa Assani, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
  • Allison McManus, Senior Director for National Security and International Policy, Center for American Progress
  • Asrar Ben Jouira, Intersection association for rights and freedoms
  • Audrey Bolus, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
  • Deborah Rammrath
  • Eya Hichri
  • Ghaylen Jlassi
  • Hamid Khalafallah, Former TIMEP nonresident fellow
  • Heba Ghannam, American University in DC
  • Hussein Cheaito, Development economist
  • Jeje Mohamed, Journalist and safety expert
  • Khayati Mohamed Mehdi
  • Labidi May
  • Mai El-Sadany, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
  • Micha Tobia, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
  • Miray Philips, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
  • Mohamed El Dahshan, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
  • Mohammed Mostafa, Human rights defender
  • Mostafa Al-a’sar, Egyptian journalist and researcher
  • Munteha Shukralla, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
  • Najet Zammouri, Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme
  • Obai Kurd Ali, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
  • Omar Taleb
  • Oussama Hamraoui, Journal 619
  • Ramy Yaacoub
  • Rim Ben Ismail, Présidente, Psychologues du Monde-Tunisie
  • Ryan Walsh
  • Sana Mustafa
  • Serife Ceren Uysal, Co-secretary general of ELDH
  • Suhail al-Ghazi, Syrian researcher
  • Timothy Kaldas, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
  • Wahid Ferchichi, Association tunisienne de défense des libertés individuelles
  • Yasmin Omar, Human rights lawyer

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