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Christian human rights defender receives three-year prison sentence

19 Jul 2023

Egyptian Christian human rights defender Patrick George Zaki was sentenced to three years in prison on 18 July by an Emergency State Security Court in Al Mansoura Governorate.

Mr Zaki is a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), one of a few human rights organisations still functioning in Egypt. He was arrested at Cairo Airport in February 2020, and subsequently interrogated by Egyptian State Security on 13 July and 9 September 2021. He was eventually charged with ‘spreading fake news inside and outside Egypt’, and had been released on bail in December 2021 pending a trial. He was taken into custody upon his sentencing on 18 July 2023.

Mr Zaki’s arrest followed the July 2019 publication of an article he wrote entitled ‘Displacement, killing and oppression: the outcomes of a week of the daily life of Egyptian Copts’ in which he described his life as an Egyptian Christian. At the time of his arrest, he was studying at an Italian university and worked as a researcher for the EIPR. His time spent in pre-trial detention exceeded the legal limits stipulated in Article 143 of Egypt’s Code of Criminal Procedures.

Sentences handed down by Emergency Courts are final and not contestable by appeal or any other legal procedure. However, they require ratification from the president, who has the authority to either approve them or pardon the person sentenced.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: ‘It is deeply disappointing that Mr Zaki has been sentenced on unfounded charges by an Emergency State Security Court, where verdicts cannot be appealed. CSW urges President Sisi to use his authority within the Emergency Court system to pardon Mr Zaki, and we continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained on similarly excessive charges for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression.’

In a separate development, CSW learned that Christian lawyer Said Fayaz has filed a formal complaint against a number of Islamist preachers accusing them of ‘contempt of the Christian faith’. Mr Fayaz submitted the complaint against Basem Suliman Subhi, Hani Jaafar, Youssef Mansour, Ahmad Subee, Maryam Ghabbour and Muaaz Oulayyan to the office of the general prosecutor on 4 July 2023. This is an unprecedented development, as the charge of ‘contempt of religion’ is mainly used against anyone who questions Islam.



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