CAIRO (AP) — A prominent Egyptian rights activist with ties to Italy walked free from jail Thursday, according to his family and a rights defender.
Patrick George Zaki, a postgraduate student in Italy, was pardoned by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi along with five other people on Wednesday, according to the country’s Official Gazette.
The news of his release was announced by Hossam Bahgat, founder of Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, who posted a picture of Zaki on his Facebook page Thursday afternoon.
His sister, Marise Zaki, also confirmed his release, posting a photo on Facebook of Patrick speaking to media after his release.
“Patrick is on the Asfalt,” his sister, Marise Zaki, wrote on her Facebook page, using a phrase activist usually use when detainees walk free.
Zaki, who is Christian, was arrested in February 2020 shortly after landing in Cairo on a trip home from Italy where he was studying at the University of Bologna. He was released in December 2021 after spending 22 months in pretrial detention but had to remain in Egypt and was not allowed to travel abroad, pending trial.
On Tuesday Zaki was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this week over an opinion article he wrote in 2019, Egypt’s MENA news agency said.
In a recorded speech late Wednesday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Zaki will return to Italy on Thursday.
“I want to thank the intelligence, both Italian and Egyptian diplomats, who in recent months have never stopped working to reach the desired solution.” Meloni said.
Zaki was pardoned Wednesday along with Mohammed el-Baker, a rights lawyer, who was arrested in September 2019, MENA agency reported.
El-Baker’s defense lawyer, Ahmed Ragheb, said they were still waiting Thursday afternoon outside a prison complex in eastern Cairo for his release.
He was sentenced to four years in prison late in 2021 over charges of disseminating false news, misuse of social media and joining a terrorist group. El-Baker was arrested when he attended the questioning by prosecutors of famed-jailed activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah.