Patrick Zaki George, a human rights defender with asthma, is at particular risk if he is exposed to COVID-19 in the Tora Investigation Prison. On May 5, 2020, the Supreme State Security Prosecutor (SSSP) extended his detention for 15 days, awaiting investigation, while Patrick and his lawyer were not present. The prison authorities failed to transfer him to SSSP for seven weeks to participate in the renewal meeting of his detention.
Zaki, an Egyptian Masters student at “Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna” in Italy, was abducted by the Egyptian State Security in the early hours of February 7th upon his arrival at Cairo International Airport, where he was travelling to spend his holidays in Egypt.
According to his lawyer, Samuel Tharwat, National Security Agency (NSA) officers kept him blindfoldedand handcuffed throughout his 17 hours’ interrogation at the airport and then at an undisclosed NSA location in Mansoura, during which they questioned him about his human rights work and the purpose of his residence in Italy. During interrogation, he was frequently threatened, beaten on his stomach and back and tortured with electric shocks.
On Saturday February 15, 2020 an Egyptian court rejected Patrick George Zaki’s appeal to be released from detention, according to human rights group the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, where Zaki previously worked as a gender rights researcher. The appeal court in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura – Zaki’s hometown – ruled that the researcher will remain in detention pending an investigation. Patrick will continue to be detained on remand until the 22nd of February where he is set to stand before a prosecutor again.
On Saturday February 22, 2020 the Egyptian prosecutors extended Patrick George Zaki’s detention with another 15 days. His defense attorney Lubna Darwish said that despite her client’s ordeal, which included having his head shaved, Zaki was in good spirits. “They cut his hair, but he’s smiling,” she said.
Patrick remains in custody for another 2 weeks. On March 9, 2020 EIPR’s lawyers were able to obtain a confirmation from Supreme State Security Investigations (SSSP) that Patrick’s next renewal hearing is scheduled for Saturday March 21. Patrick’s family were also able to visit him in his new place of custody in Tora Prison Complex, after the prosecutor issued permission for a family visit on Saturday March 7 during the renewal hearing.
*Sources : amnesty.org, graduategenderstudies.nl, esu-online.org