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12/15/2021 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Coptic rights activist and EIPR researcher Patrick Zaki was ordered by the courts to be released from prison after being held in pretrial detention for 22 months, in a rare success case for Egyptian human rights. Another human rights activist Ahmed Al-Attar commented on the rationale for Zaki’s release saying, “[President Abdel Fattah] Sisi would like to have a good reputation in the world and the news of Patrick’s release will now be published in Italian and European newspapers. He is whitewashing his reputation.”

Zaki still faces potential jail time when his trial resumes on February 1, 2022. He is charged with spreading false news for an article written detailing the discrimination he faced in his life as Coptic Christian in Egypt. His work as a researcher and activist also included his pursuit of a Master’s degree in Italy. The case of Giulio Regeni, an Italian who was accused of acting as a spy in Egypt and tortured and killed, is one Zaki advocated on. The Italian government granted Zaki honorary citizenship in order to leverage and expedite his release.

While human rights activists are grateful for Zaki’s release, other rights activists such as Ramey Kamel, remain imprisoned. Kamel’s detention was renewed on November 27 for another 45 days, placing him well beyond the legal 2-year restriction for pretrial detention.

Egypt, which recently ended a four-year-long state of emergency, has also added new laws that essentially place permanent allowances for repressive government involvement. Amendments to the counterterrorism law impose even harsher penalties than the emergency law allowed, including higher fines and increased jail time. Amendments to the law on the protection of public facilities allow civilians to be referred to military courts where verdicts are not subject to appeal. Amendments to the Penal Code further protected the armed forces and corporate alliances from civilian accountability. The amendments were ratified on November 23.

The release of Patrick Zaki is one of many attempts by the Egyptian government to improve its international standing. The removal of the state of emergency is another such instance. And yet, the continued imprisonment of other human rights activists and the implementation of new, restrictive laws show that there is little meaning behind the few success cases in Egypt.

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