Freed Egyptian rights activist pledges to continue work

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A high-profile Egyptian activist who was released from prison after being pardoned by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi insists he will continue to work in the field of human rights.

The case of Patrick George Zaki, a student at the University of Bologna, was championed by Italy’s government and his release marks the end of a three-year ordeal.

Zaki explained his short-term plans.

“I will be in Bologna next Sunday night. After a long time, for three years, I was waiting for this moment, so I am really excited right now to be there again and I will be there for only two weeks and I will come back again because I have my wedding on the next September. 

“So, I will be back to stay in Egypt and then after the wedding, I will go back to presume my academic career again in Bologna for my PhD.”

Egypt, which has carried out a relentless crackdown on dissent for nearly a decade, has pardoned dozens of detainees in the past year.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who has overseen the crackdown, previously denied his country had political prisoners, and justified government measures by saying they were needed to fight the spread of terrorism.

Zaki said he hoped a number of other prominent jailed dissidents would be released soon, including one of the most famous, Alaa Abdel Fattah.

“I wish in the upcoming days the Egyptian government could make more decisions considering like the prisoners of conscience, and more of them could be released in the upcoming days. 

“Let’s hope that was the first or the start for a new beginning for a huge number of prisoners of consciousness who could be released.”

Zaki, who is Christian, was arrested in February 2020 shortly after landing in Cairo for a short trip home from Italy.

He was accused of “disseminating false news” following an opinion article he wrote in 2019 on alleged discrimination against the Coptic Christian minority in the country.

But he said the ordeal would not stop him from campaigning for people.

“I am a human rights defender and will keep defending human rights all over the world and will practise my job as normal, even when I wrote an article that caused me a problem, this will not change anything. And there were no discussions that I will stop anything.”

Zaki will return to Egypt for his wedding in September.

Africanews/Hauwa M.