Cairo – Egypt on Tuesday postponed the trial of rights activist Patrick Zaki, his support committee said, accusing authorities of seeking to keep him “imprisoned as long as possible without any legal basis”.
Zaki, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), had been studying at Italy’s Bologna University when he was taken into custody upon his return to Cairo in February last year.
The trial of the Coptic Christian on charges of “spreading false news” had been due to start before the State Security court in the city of Mansoura, north of Cairo, on September 14.
But it was postponed for a second time – until December 7 – in a hearing on Tuesday attended by Zaki in the presence of Italian and Canadian diplomats, the “Patrick Libero” support committee said on Twitter.
“The situation is getting worse every day for Patrick and his family,” said the committee.
“It is clear that the intention of the Egyptian authorities is to keep Patrick imprisoned as long as possible without any legal basis,” it added.
According to Zaki’s mother Hala Sobhi and the EIPR, he is being prosecuted because of an article published in 2019 recounting a week of rights violations against Coptic Christians.
Copts, who make up about 10-15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of more than 100 million, have long complained of discrimination and underrepresentation.
The EIPR and other Egyptian and international rights groups this month denounced the trial of “Zaki before an exceptional court, whose rulings are not subject to appeal, on ‘charges’ of publishing an article in which he recounts his life as a Christian Egyptian”.
They said Zaki is being prosecuted for practising “his right to free speech in defence of his rights, and the rights of all Egyptians – and especially Christian Egyptians – to equality and full citizenship”.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former army chief, took power in 2014 and has launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, with rights groups estimating that Egypt holds about 60 000 political prisoners.
Earlier this month, the trial of EIPR director Hossam Bahgat, one of the country’s most prominent human rights advocates, for a tweet criticising alleged electoral fraud, was postponed until November.
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