Italian Senate OKs citizenship for Zaki

By 208 votes to nil, FdI abstains

14 April, 14:05

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, APRIL 14 - The Senate on Wednesday approved a motion to grant Italian citizenship to Patrick Zaki, an Egyptian Bologna University postgraduate student held in Egypt since February 7 last year on charges of "disseminating false news" and "inciting to protest".

    The motion was approved by 2018 votes to nil with 33 abstentions.

    The nationalist Brothers of Italy (FdI) party abstained.

    The motion also urges the government to press Egyptian authorities to free Zaki; to monitor his hearings and detention conditions; and to act on a European level to safeguard human rights in countries where violations persist and to bring initiatives to the G7 with particular attention for cases of repression of political activists.

    The vote was hailed by Zaki's supporters and human rights activists.

    Centre-left Democratic Party Senator said it was "important for human rights" while populist 5-Star Movement Senator Nicola Morra said "citizenship is sacrosanct" and hailed the presence at the vote of 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and Life Senator Liliana Segre who "has shown that some battles unite us all".

    Segre said "I will always be here to speak about freedom".

    Zaki, a 29-year-old Coptic Christian, is pursuing an Erasmus Mundus Master's Degree in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Bologna. He also conducts research and advocacy on gender issues and human rights for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a human rights organization based in Cairo.

    Motions for his release have been rejected on countless occasions, most recently earlier this month.

    Zaki was arrested on arriving at Cairo International Airport when he returned home from Bologna for a short family visit. The Egyptian National Security Agency reportedly arrested Zaki, interrogated him about his time in Italy and his human rights work, and took him to an undisclosed location.

    During interrogation, he was allegedly frequently threatened, beaten on his stomach and back and tortured with electric shocks.

    The European Parliament, Amnesty International and Scholars At Risk have been among the bodies calling for his release, along with the Italian government. (ANSA).

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