Patrick Zaki free: “Hope keeps you alive.” The prison, the accusations, the torture: all that he cannot tell

“Hope keeps you alive.” Patrick Zaki is free after 668 days of imprisonment and is in the living room of his childhood home in Massoura. After the announcement of his release, the Egyptian student spent his first day on the loose with his sister Marise, his girlfriend Reny and his parents George and Hala. And he spoke to Italian journalists about his last 48 hours: «They didn’t announce that I would be released. Suddenly they took me to the police station and started taking my fingerprints – says al Corriere della Sera -. I didn’t understand what was happening, there were no signs that they wanted to release me. But then I realized there was hope. And hope is the thing that keeps you alive when they take away your freedom ».

What happens if Zaki talks

Republic he explained today that on February 1st he will have to return to court to answer the accusation of spreading false and harmful news for the state. He faces a five-year sentence. In addition, there is a second suspended charge, that of a terrorist association. In this case, the risk is up to 12 years. The hope is that the second charge will fall and that the first will be given a sentence equal to or less than the 22 months served in the Tora prison south of Cairo. In this way Egypt could save face and Zaki could return to Italy. But for this to happen it is necessary for the accused to keep a low profile and for diplomacy to work behind the scenes as has happened up to now. For this reason, in the interviews released today, the Egyptian student talks very little about the accusations against him and what happened to him in prison.

“Thanks. Thanks to all the Italians, to the political parties who have taken my case to heart. And first of all, Bologna: thank you. Bologna is my city, my university, my alma mater. I’ll be back as soon as possible, because my people are there. Thanks to Amnesty International, to Riccardo Noury ​​and to his whole group ”, he says just today. And he adds that he still gets along with the Italian «not too well. I just say a few words. So … Well … I speak Italian so-so. I promise that from next week I will start studying again because when I come back I want to speak well ». But he says that in prison he read Dostoevsky, Saramago and Elena Ferrante: «It is beautiful – he says – the best Italian literature I have ever read. I can’t wait to go to Naples, I love Naples ». Also because his great-grandmother Adel came from that city.

Hands to shake in Italy

Zaki knows that Italy has taken steps to get him out of prison: «Seeing your diplomatic representatives in the courtroom during the hearings gave me strength. And I’m sure there are dozens and dozens of people I will have to shake hands with ». Even Liliana Segre, who voted to give him Italian citizenship in the Senate: «It filled me with pride to know that a person of your level and moral stature was interested in me. I want to meet her. Absolutely. I hope this will happen as soon as possible ». Patrick Zaki was arrested on February 7, 2020, as soon as he got off the plane that was taking him back to Egypt from Italy. The prosecution points the finger at an article published in 2019 in which he talks about the persecutions suffered by the minority of Coptic Christians in his country. It is not yet known whether he can leave Egypt.

His lawyer, Hoda Nasrallah, explained yesterday to theAnsa: «We cannot know if there is an interdiction to leave without first deciding to travel. We will know at the airport ». Meanwhile, he also thanks Professor Rita Monticelli, his mentor at the Gemma master in Bologna: «A person who treated me like a son. And he not only passed on knowledge but also values. Empathy, respect. And listening ». Khaled Douad, a journalist and opponent of the Al Sisi regime, also ended up in prison and met Zaki there. “He wasn’t well obviously, who would be fine in there. Imagine your body being regularly searched in every corner and the anger of not being able to express anger, “he says today to The print.

Patrick’s prison

And again: «I imagine him now lying down in his bed and thinking about him in prison: he was less fortunate than me, who, sharing a cell with a couple of seventy-year-olds, had an iron cot to sleep on. He and his two companions spread the blankets on the 4 square meter floor, a hole in which there was also a small bathroom. However, he had 2 hours of air and could read the newspapers that were forbidden to me. He said that books helped him, those that saved me too. Political texts are forbidden in Egyptian prisons but history manuals and novels are not, so it happens to read Camus, Kafka, Arthur Miller. It is enough that the relatives bring them to you, because whoever is awaiting trial cannot access the library ».

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