ROME (AP) — Italian lawmakers on Wednesday formally called on the government to grant citizenship to an Egyptian student and human rights activist enrolled at an Italian university, who has been jailed in Cairo for nearly 1 ½ years.
Egyptian courts have repeatedly extended the detention in jail of Patrick Zaki since he was jailed in February 2020 after arriving in his homeland to visit family. Zaki is enrolled at the University of Bologna and had worked as a gender rights researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
He was jailed pending investigation into accusations of spreading fake news and calling for unauthorized protests. Zaki and his lawyer have insisted there are no grounds to detain him.
In Rome, the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament’s lower house, overwhelmingly voted to call on Premier Mario Draghi’s government to grant Zaki citizenship. The Senate approved the same motion in April.
The motion also presses the government to use its relations with the Egyptian government as well as various international forums to insist that Egyptian authorities respect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful protest, as well as end “the impunity for the grave violations of human rights” in Egypt.
It was unclear whether or when Draghi’s government would respond to Parliament’s appeal. Making Zaki an Italian citizen could put some pressure on Cairo to release him from detention, as well as highlight strong attention to his plight in Italy, where he hopes to return.
Italy has for years pressed Egypt to identify and prosecute those responsible for the death of a 28-year-old Italian doctoral student, Giulio Regeni, who was kidnapped in Cairo, tortured and killed in 2016.
In May, a Rome judge ordered four high-ranking members of Egypt’s security forces to stand trial in the Regeni case. They are expected to be tried in absentia.
While successive Italian governments have vowed to bring justice in Regeni’s case, Cairo is an important ally for Italy in the Mediterranean, including in international anti-terrorism efforts.
Some 270,000 signatures were gathered in Italy on an online petition for Italian citizenship for Zaki, Italian media reported this week.