US urges Egypt to release Jailed rights researcher
The United States has joined the international chorus of voices urging Egypt to release human rights researcher Patrick Zaki, who was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “spreading false news.” In a statement issued on Wednesday, the US State Department expressed deep concern over Zaki’s conviction and called for his immediate release, emphasizing that he and others detained unjustly should be set free.
Zaki, a 32-year-old advocate for human rights, was imprisoned following the publication of an article detailing the discrimination faced by himself and other members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. This verdict comes after he spent 22 months in pre-trial detention. Upon the court’s ruling in Mansoura, located 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Cairo, Zaki was once again taken into custody.
The protracted legal proceedings in Zaki’s case have sparked widespread international condemnation, particularly in Italy where Zaki was pursuing his studies before his arrest in 2020 during a visit to Egypt. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni affirmed Rome’s unwavering commitment to seeking a positive resolution to Zaki’s case, expressing continued hope for justice.
Numerous Egyptian and international organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, have strongly denounced the verdict, highlighting numerous due process violations throughout the trial. Reports from human rights defenders have also indicated that Zaki was subjected to physical abuse and electric shocks during his detention.
In response to the sentencing, three human rights activists have withdrawn from the Egyptian government’s “national dialogue,” a process intended to involve the country’s weakened opposition but met with skepticism. Diaa Rashwan, the coordinator of the national dialogue and head of the State Information Service, confirmed on Tuesday that the board of trustees of the dialogue had appealed directly to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for Zaki’s immediate release.
The United States has been a consistent critic of Egypt’s human rights record, accusing the authorities of torture, inhumane prison conditions, and restrictions on freedom of speech. Egypt remains a key ally of the United States and one of the largest recipients of military aid. Although some voices in the US Congress had called for broader aid cuts to Egypt in response to its rights abuses, the Biden administration withheld only $130 million in 2021.
In January, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged President Sisi to release all political prisoners, estimated to number in the tens of thousands, while acknowledging Egypt’s progress in certain areas. As international pressure mounts, the fate of Patrick Zaki remains uncertain, and the world continues to closely monitor Egypt’s treatment of human rights and the rule of law.