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  • Patrick George Zaki, 27, had been in the Italian city of Bologna since August 2019 for his postgraduate studies.

    Patrick George Zaki, 27, had been in the Italian city of Bologna since August 2019 for his postgraduate studies. | Photo: Twitter (@MohamedNasrAJA)

Published 16 February 2020

Zaki, 27, was arrested on Feb. 7 at Cairo’s international airport following his arrival from Italy for a family visit.

An Egyptian court rejected Saturday researcher’s Patrick George Zaki appeal to be released from detention, according to human rights group the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), where Zaki previously worked as a gender rights researcher.

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The appeal court in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura - Zaki’s hometown - ruled that the researcher will remain in detention pending an investigation.

Zaki, 27, was arrested on Feb. 7 at Cairo’s international airport following his arrival from Italy for a family visit. He had been in the Italian city of Bologna since last August for his postgraduate studies.

Prosecutors ordered him following his arrest to remain in custody for 15 days until they investigate a whole array of allegations, including publishing false news, inciting protests without permission, calling for the state to be overthrown, managing a social media account that aims to undermine the social order and public safety, and inciting to commit violence and terrorist crimes.

The EIPR had reported that Zaki was taken into the custody of Egypt’s National Security Investigations at the airport and disappeared for 24 hours.

His lawyers said he was tortured during that time: beaten, subjected to electric shocks, threatened and questioned about his work and activism.

But the country’s chief prosecutor denied Sunday allegations that the police tortured Zaki.

In a two-page statement, the office of the prosecutor said Zaki did not report that he was "harmed or violated during his arrest or detention" when he spoke to the public prosecution on Feb. 8, the day after his arrest.

"The public prosecution also did not observe any visible injuries that could be useful to the investigations, and that the defendant responded denying the existence of any injuries to his body," the statement read.

Zaki’s lawyer Huda Nasrallah told The Associated Press that her client repeated and confirmed his torture allegations Saturday during the hearing to appeal against his detention. 

Human rights in Egypt have been blatantly violated for years, but the situation in the country has worsened since 2013, when President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power, according to human rights organizations.

The North African nation has, since the end of its so-called Arab Spring, seen an unprecedented crackdown on freedoms and a surge in torture practices against rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, and political opponents.

Thousands of people have been arrested, both secular-leaning activists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, while there has been a threefold rise in the number of death sentences handed down by Egyptian courts.

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