Regeni parents urge govts to protect Zaky

Egyptian Bologna uni student 'tortured', risks life term

12 February, 16:41

    Mural by Laika appears in Rome showing Giulio Regeni embracing Patrick George Zaky Mural by Laika appears in Rome showing Giulio Regeni embracing Patrick George Zaky

    ROME - The parents of Giulio Regeni, the Italian Cambridge doctoral student tortured to death in Cairo four years ago, on Wednesday urged "democratic governments" to protect Egyptian Bologna university student and rights activist Patrick George Zaky who has been allegedly tortured after being arrested in Egypt.

    "We are following with attention and concern the arrest in Cairo of the Egyptian student Patrick George Zaky," said Paola and Claudio Regeni, and their lawyer Alessandra Ballerini, in a statement.

    "Patrick, like Giulio, is a brilliant international student and holds dear people's inviolable rights.

    "Democratic governments should preserve and cultivate the growth of these committed and studious young people of ours and should protect their safety in all areas".

    The statement went on: "we hope that there is for Patrick a real, effective and constant mobilisation so that this young man can be freed without delay. "We ask Italian and European institutions to immediately put in train all the concrete action which were never exercised to save Giulio's life or to demand the truth on his murder".

    Zaky was arrested at Cairo airport on Thursday night and initially charged with spreading false news and instigating protests.

    He was placed under a two-week detention order and Amnesty International and his family say he was tortured with electrical shocks and beatings. One of his lawyers, Wael Ghaly, told ANSA Wednesday that he risks life imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the ruling regime.

    Ghaly said that preventive custody, which is renewed every two weeks, can last for more than two years.

    One of Zaky's friends, Amr, told ANSA he had been arrested by Egyptian security forces and interrogated for 35 hours, when he was allegedly blindfolded and tied up and suffered sleep deprivation but not electrical shocks.

    Amr, who lives and studies in Berlin, said that he and his friends feared being spied on by Egyptian security forces even when they were abroad.

    Bologna University Dean Francesco Ubertini told reporters that "our goal is to make sure that the attention on the case, at an Italian level and at a European level, is kept high so as to get Patrick back as soon as possible".

    Minister for Relations with Parliament Federico D'Incà told Wednesday's question time that "Zaky's disappearance and detention have aroused great emotion in all of us, evoking, with a series of initial analogies, the painful and tragic affair of Giulio Regeni.

    "The government will continue to give priority to the Zaky case, aslo with reference to his conditions of detention and the need to ensure a rapid judicial process, in view of a hopefully prompt release". Another lawyer representing Zaky has said the postgrad student is "psychologically destroyed".

    Zaky was working on gender studies and human rights at the University of Bologna and is now being held in a cell at the Mansoura-2 police station "alongside criminals", Hoda Nasrallah told ANSA.

    He said Zaky had told of torture at the hands of his investigators. Nasrallah works with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Researcher, said in statement that: "We call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Patrick, who is detained solely for his human rights work and opinions he has expressed on social media." "They must open an independent investigation into the torture he has suffered and urgently ensure his protection," he added.

    A piece of street art that appeared near the Egyptian embassy in Rome overnight shows Giulio Regeni, the Italian student tortured and murdered in Cairo in early 2016, comforting Egyptian Bologna university researcher and activist Patrick Zaky who has been arrested and some fear may suffer the same fate, after reports he has already been tortured.

    The mural, by street artist Laika, depicts both young men in prison uniform next to the words freedom in Arabic, with a speech bubble over Regeni telling Zaky not to worry, "this time everything will turn out right".

    Laika said "this phrase has a double meaning, its serves to reassure Patrick, but above all to confront the Egyptian government and the international community with their responsibilities.

    "We can't let what happened to Giulio Regeni and too many others happen again.

    "This time it MUST all go OK.

    "I hope that this affair ends well and that Zaky is freed as soon as possible.

    "I also hope that although he is not an Italian citizen, our country can stand guard over what is happening.

    "I'd like this small gesture of mine to be a stimulus for the media to increase the spotlight on Zaky's case." Commenting on what he called the arbitrary arrest of gender studies master degree student Zaky at Cairo Airport Friday on charges of spreading false news and inciting protests, Philip Luther, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa research director, said: "the arbitrary arrest and torture of Patrick Zaky represent another example of the systematic repression by the Egyptian state of those who are considered opponents and defenders of human rights, a repression that is reaching ever more flagrant levels day after day.

    "We urge upon the Egyptian authorities the immediate and unconditional release of Patrick, who is being held exclusively for his work on human rights and his ideas expressed on social media.

    "It is necessary that the authorities carry out an independent probe into the torture he has suffered and that his protection is guaranteed in a timely way".

    Italy has got the EU to monitor the case of 27-year-old Zaky, whose lawyer and family say he was tortured with electrical cables.

    The human rights lawyer, Wael Ghally, told Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper Sunday that "he was not beaten with sticks so as not to leave marks of torture".

    Zaky has asked for a medical examination to prove that he was tortured with electrical shocks and beatings, another lawyer in the case, Hoda Nasrallah, said Tuesday, confirming that the beating deliberately did not leave traces on his body.

    Zaky's family said Tuesday: "we still can't understand the charges leveled at Patrick, our son has never been a source of threat or danger for anyone, on the contrary, he has been a constant source of support and help for many people".

    The Italian foreign ministry said Sunday that Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has been following the case "from the start".

    It said Di Maio had asked the EU to set up monitoring of Zaky's case via its embassies in Cairo.

    The spokesman for the European Union External Action service (EEAS), Peter Stano, said they were aware of Zaky's case and "we are assessing it with our EU delegation in Cairo, and we will take adequate action if necessary.

    "As soon as we have collected more information we will be able to say something more concrete".

    Amnesty Italia said in response they expected "incisive and constant action starting with the presence, as requested by Italy, of EU observers at upcoming hearings, the first of which is on February 22," according to spokesman Riccardo Noury.

    Noury said the EEAS statement was marked by "an excessive principle of prudence and delay".

    The European Parliament caucus of the ruling anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) called for Zaky's immediate release and vowed "we will not permit another Regeni case". Amnesty said the case reminded them of that of Regeni, a student from Friuli who was researching the politically sensitive subject of street sellers' unions, whose leader had fingered him as a spy to secret services.

    Regeni's father said last week that failings in the effort to get to the bottom of his son's death were not limited to the Egyptian side.

    In particular, he took issue with Italy's failure to recall its ambassador to Cairo in protest at the lack of cooperation from the Egyptian authorities.

    "There are grey zones both on the side of the Egyptian government, which is recalcitrant and does not cooperate as it should, and on the Italian side, which has not yet withdrawn our ambassador to Cairo," Claudio Regeni told the parliamentary commission of inquiry into his son's murder.

    "We have been calling for the ambassador's withdrawal for some time".

    The mutilated body of the Cambridge researcher into Cairo street unions was found on the highway to Alexandria on February 3, 2016, a week after he disappeared in the Egyptian capital on January 25, the heavily policed fifth anniversary of the uprising that ousted former strongman Hosni Mubarak.

    His mother said she had only been able to recognise him "by the tip of his nose".

    Magistrate Giuseppe Pignatone, who was Rome chief prosecutor at the time of Regeni's killing, said Monday that the Cairo prosecutor's office hasn't made any progress on the investigation since December 2017, when Rome named five members of the Egyptian security apparatus as suspects.

    At various stages, Egypt has put out several purported explanations for his death including a car accident, a gay lovers' tiff turned ugly and a kidnapping for ransom in which the alleged gang, criminals but later found innocent of the Regeni murder, were wiped out after his documents had been planted at their lair.

    Judicial cooperation between Rome and Cairo prosecutors dried up after the Roman prosecutors placed the five members of the security apparatus under investigation.

    Last month Rome prosecutors Sergio Colaiocco and Michele Prestipino said that Regeni was caught by a "spider's web" spun by the Egyptian security services.

    "A spider's web was spun around Giulio Regeni by the Egyptian National Security Service in October (2015) before the kidnapping and murder," Colaiocco and Prestipino told a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the Friuli-born student's death.

    "A spider's web in which the (security) apparatus used the people who were closest to Giulio in Cairo, including his lawyer flat mate, the street traders union representative and Noura Whaby, his friend who helped him with translations".

    "It was a spider's web that closed in more and more and which Giulio ended up in the middle of".

    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has denied any official involvement in Regeni's death.

    Sisi reiterated to Premier Giuseppe Conte in Cairo last month that Egypt wants to get to the truth in the case.

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