Egypt pursues criminal investigation into Egyptian academic studying in Italy

In this undated photo provided by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a local Non-Governmental Organization, Egyptian activist and researcher Patrick George Zaki, poses for a photograph, in Egypt. (Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights via AP)
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Updated 17 February 2020

Egypt pursues criminal investigation into Egyptian academic studying in Italy

  • Patrick Zaki was arrested on Feb. 7 when he arrived at Cairo airport on a visit to see his family
  • Zaki is being investigated over charges of “broadcasting false news aimed at disrupting security and social peace"

CAIRO: The Egyptian public prosecutor’s office is pursuing a criminal investigation into an Egyptian researcher studying in Italy on charges of spreading fake news that posed a threat to security and social stability, it said on Sunday.
Patrick Zaki, a graduate student at the University of Bologna, was arrested on Feb. 7 when he arrived at Cairo airport on a visit to see his family, according a statement the following day from the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) where he is also a researcher.
Zaki is being investigated over charges of “broadcasting false news aimed at disrupting security and social peace and for using the Internet to disrupt public order and endanger society,” the prosecutor’s statement said.
An EIPR lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Zaki denied all charges and that his client had mostly been questioned about his human rights work when he was living in Egypt.
The lawyer, who said he spoke to Zaki after his arrest, said the postgraduate student told him he had been interrogated while blindfolded and had been beaten and subjected to electric shocks.
The prosecutor’s statement said there “were no visible signs of injuries” on Zaki while he was being questioned, and that Zaki himself denied the existence of any injuries.
An interior ministry official said allegations of torture were unfounded.
Authorities say curbing fictitious news is necessary for national security. They regularly accuse researchers and news outlets of a lack of professionalism in covering Egypt and urge reporters to use only official outlets as sources.
Local and international human rights groups and the European Parliament have condemned Zaki’s arrest and called for his immediate release.
“I want to remind the Egyptian authorities that EU relations with third countries rely on respect for human rights and civil rights as confirmed by many resolutions approved by the European Parliament,” the president of European Parliament, David Sassoli, told a news conference on Wednesday.


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