Freed Egyptian human rights activist arrives in Italy, who has taken up his case

MILAN (AP) — A top Egyptian activist who was recently released from prison landed in Italy on Sunday, where the government argued his case.

Patrick George Zaki was greeted with applause and a throng of video and still cameras as he emerged into the arrivals hall at Milan Malpensa airport after traveling on a commercial flight. He then continued to Bologna, where he had lived and studied before being detained in Cairo in 2020.

“It’s the most important day of my life,” Zaki, 32, told reporters as he drove through Milan airport.

Zaki’s case has echoed in Italy, bringing to mind the tragic fate of Italian student Giulio Regeni who was kidnapped and killed in Cairo in 2016. The Italian government had repeatedly called for Zaki’s release since his arrest in 2020.

Zaki was pardoned last week, just days after an Egyptian court found him guilty of a charge of spreading false news, stemming from an article he wrote in 2019 about alleged discrimination against Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Zaki, who is a Christian, was arrested in February 2020 shortly after landing in Cairo for a brief return trip from Italy. He spent 22 months in prison before being released in 2021 pending trial, on the condition that he stay in Egypt.

He obtained a master’s degree with distinction earlier this month from the University of Bologna, defending his thesis by videoconference.

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