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Zaki to be released but not acquitted

Egyptian Bologna uni student held for 22 months

- ROME, DEC 7 - Egyptian Bologna University student Patrick Zaki will be released after almost two year's detention but not acquitted of anti-government propaganda, a court in Egypt ruled Tuesday.
    Zaki, 30, a Coptic doctoral researcher at the central-northern Italian university, could be released already on Tuesday, although nothing is certain at the moment, an attorney representing Zaki told ANSA.
    Zaki is pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Master's Degree in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Bologna. He also conducts research and advocacy on gender issues and human rights for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a human rights organization based in Cairo.
    The lawyer added that the student will first be transferred from Mansoura to the Egyptian prison of Tora.
    Zaki will not be required to report to authorities ahead of the next hearing scheduled on February 1, according to well-informed sources.
    The announcement that Zaki will be released at the end of the third hearing of the trial against him in Mansoura was met with cries of joy by family members and activists, as witnessed by the ANSA reporter on the ground.
    The student's parents, sister, friends and some activists were outside the tribunal.
    Zaki was not in court when the announcement of his release was made.
    Speaking before the announcement, he said "I'm well, thank you Italy".
    Zaki's father George hugged the two Italian diplomats present and said "we are very grateful for everything you have done".
    Premier Mario Draghi voiced satisfaction at Zaki's release and reiterated that the case has been and will continue to be followed by the Italian government with the utmost attention, the premier's office said.
    Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Benedetto Della Vedova expressed "great satisfaction" on Twitter following the announcement.
    "I hope to see Patrick free today", he tweeted.
    "The government and Farnesina (foreign ministry) are continuing to keep the attention high for a just and fair trial".
    Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Facebook: "First objective achieved: Patrick Zaki is no longer in prison.
    Now we will continue to work silently, with constancy and commitment. A due thank you to our diplomatic corps." Di Maio phoned Italian Ambassador in Cairo Michele Quaroni and thanked him for the work done on the Zaki case by the embassy and the whole diplomatic corps.
    Bologna Mayor Matteo Lepore said "it's the news we were really waiting for. Patrick Zaki will be released from prison. Let's hope that soon we will be able to re-embrace him here in Bologna".
    News of Zaki's imminent release sparked cross-party jubilation back in Italy, and among human rights groups who have been campaigning for justice for the student, as well as renewed calls for the Italian government to make good on parliament's recent vote to make Zaki an Italian citizen.
    On Tuesday a petition to make Zaki an Italian citizen reached 300,000 signatures on change.org.
    Amnesty International said "let's hope this is the first step towards a full acquittal".
    Zaki was arrested on February 7, 2020, while returning to Egypt for a holiday and 19 months of detention were justified on charges of subversive propaganda made in 10 Facebook posts.
    The indictment instead was based on charges of "spreading fake news inside and outside the country" based on three articles written by Zaki, including one in 2019 on Christians in Egypt persecuted by ISIS and discriminated by fringes of Muslim society.
    The researcher and activist risks up to five years in jail, Egyptian judicial sources say.


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