Patrick Zaki pictured in 2020

Zaki receives Egyptian presidential pardon


The Egyptian researcher, human rights activist and Bologna university alumnus Patrick Zaki has been granted a presidential pardon, the Egyptian authorities said on today.

On Tuesday, a Mansoura court sentenced Zaki to three years in prison for allegedly spreading fake news. Following the ruling, the 22-year-old researcher faced a further 14 months in jail having already spent 22 months in pre-trial detention.

However, today the Egyptian president pardoned Zaki.

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (…) uses his constitutional powers and issues a presidential decree granting pardons to a group of people against whom judicial sentences have been passed, including Patrick Zaki and Mohamed El-Baqer, in response to the appeal from the Council of Secretaries of National Dialogue and political forces,” a member of Egypt’s Presidential Pardon Committee, Mohamad Abdelaziz, wrote on Facebook.

The presidential pardon is the result of a “long and constant negotiation” between the Italian and Egyptian governments, sources said.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, alongside Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, undertook several missions to Egypt in recent months. The Italian External Intelligence and Security Agency (Aise) have also been involved.

“Egyptian President al-Sisi has granted Patrick Zaki a pardon. Thanks to the government’s foreign policy we have made a decisive contribution to freeing this young student. Hard work and international credibility lead to concrete results,” tweeted Tajani.

What is the story of Zaki’s arrest?

Zaki was arrested at Cairo airport in February 2020, while returning to Egypt from Italy to visit family his family. The charges were of subversive propaganda connected to some Facebook posts.

Zaki was released from custody in December 2021. However, he was subsequently put on trial for allegedly spreading fake news in relation to three articles on Coptic Christians in Egypt. He was banned from leaving the country.

Earlier this month, Zaki obtained a Masters degree in women’s and gender studies from Bologna University with the maximum grade of 110 with distinction. He defended his thesis via video link after the authorities in his homeland refused permission for him to present it in person.

How soon will Zaki be free?

The release of Patrick Zaki “is expected in the next few hours”, one of the lawyers acting for the pardoned Egyptian researcher and human rights activist told ANSA.

“His mother and uncle have gone to the police station in New Mansoura to await his release. God willing, he will be home as early as today,” said Samweil Tharwat.

Separately, an Egyptian source informed about the judicial procedures in Egypt told ANSA that in order to be removed from the list of people banned from leaving the country Zaki “must bring his case before the court of assizes”. The travel ban can only be lifted “by virtue of a court ruling”, the source said.

However, Giorgia Meloni, in a video message said, “Tomorrow Patrick Zaki will be in Italy and I wish him from the bottom of my heart a life of serenity and success”.

“Zaki today received a pardon from the Egyptian President, and I want to thank President Al Sisi for this very important gesture,” said Meloni.

“Ever since our first meeting last November, I have never stopped raising the issue, and I have always found him to be attentive and helpful. And I want to thank the intelligence (services) and diplomats, both Italian and Egyptian, who in recent months have never stopped working to achieve the desired solution,” she added.

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