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Egyptian Christian human rights defender pardoned hours after sentencing

by Sophie Drew
Egypt CSW.jpg - Banner image

An Egyptian Christian human rights defender has been pardoned by the country's president just a day after being sentenced to years behind bars.

In a surprising turn of events, Patrick George Zaki was pardoned by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on the 19th July.

This came just one day after Zaki was sentenced to three years in prison by an Emergency State Security Court in Al Mansoura Governorate. He had already spent 22 months in pre-trial detention.

Zaki, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), had been charged with 'spreading fake news inside and outside Egypt'.

Emergency Court sentences are final and cannot be contested by appeal or any other legal procedure. However, they require ratification from the president, who has the authority to endorse the court's decision or issue a pardon.

In a separate act of clemency, President Sisi also pardoned lawyer Mohammad Al Baqer, who represented British-Egyptian pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. Al Baqer was arrested in September 2019 while attending Fattah's interrogation. Both men were later charged with 'spreading fake news and undermining national security'. In September 2021, an Emergency State Security Court found them guilty and sentenced Al Baqer and Fattah to four and five years respectively.

Mervyn Thomas, Founder President of CSW - a human rights organisation specialising in religious freedom - welcomed the release of both men. "We call upon the Egyptian authorities to act on President Sisi’s personal commitment to improve human rights and promote equal citizenship in Egypt.

"We also continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained on similarly excessive charges in relation to the exercise of their right to freedom of expression."

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