Patrick Zaki, fate remains suspended: Egypt postpones the verdict to April

from Marta Serafini

The student remains free but the charges remain. The hearing behind closed doors and Patrick goes back to the defendant’s cage: a horrible feeling

FROM OUR MAIL
MANSOURA (EGYPT)
You can be free but still live in a prison. It took ten minutes yesterday morning for the Mansoura judge to establish it: another postponement for Zaki. It goes to April 6: Patrick remains out of prison but still hangs on his head the sword of Damocles of charges that could lead him back to his cell for up to five years.

It is early in the morning when Dad George joins him worried, before he enters the classroom, a straightened to the blue tie, worn with the wool coat. There is no mother Hala. The sister Marise is not seen. The first message comes immediately loud and clear. “This hearing is behind closed doors,” decrees the judge. Forced to wait outside the classroom with the journalists, the members of the diplomatic delegation, made up of representatives from Italy, the United States, Germany, Spain and Belgium. An important representation, one of the most nourished since the beginning of this trial phase. And, as always, requested and desired by the Italian embassy. Everyone out to wait in a bar near the old courthouse. It hasn’t happened since the darkest times of the pandemic. Inside, only Patrick’s lawyers, the trusted lawyer of the Italian embassy and that of the EU. The door is closed. The call arrives: Patrick has to appear in front of the judge. It could be a good sign, maybe not, maybe yes. “How can you tell?” A good hour of waiting. Then, to understand, just look at the disappointment in his eyes, the smile that goes out when the reporters run to meet him. There is no end to this story that began two years ago, there is just yet another postponement. Bologna is still a long way off.

After the wave of the cameras, a moment of respite. Someone passes a bottle of water. “While I was waiting for the judge in court, do you know what they did? They put me back in the cage, together with a common criminal ». There is no anger in the voice, only amazement. “It was a horrible feeling.” The déjà vu of bars. And of those 22 months of pre-trial detention spent sleeping on the ground, between back pain and the anguish of Covid, in the hell of Tora prison. Then the strength returns as his weight sways on his legs. “But I’m serene.” “You have to wait for Patrick, you have to be patient,” friends tell him.

“We will continue to stand by your side,” writes Professor Rita Monticelli from Bologna. “Okay, I’m free,” he takes courage. But we are talking about disappointment. Because the signs, at least in part, seemed good for the student of the University of Bologna and for all those who worked for him. On Twitter from Italy, the protest. “An enormously long wait,” said Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International in Italy. “Stop this ostracism and assert justice for him and Giulio Regeni,” says Laura Boldrini, president of the Chamber’s committee on human rights in the world.

Only one week has passed since Prime Minister Mario Draghi met Giulio Regeni’s parents, together with Justice Minister Marta Cartabia who promised a visit to Cairo to obtain the addresses of the four National Security defendants accused of kidnapping, torture and the murder of the Italian researcher. A journey that could already take place in the next few weeks.

Already before 11 April, when the next preliminary hearing is set in the court of Rome. But meanwhile here, on the Nile Delta, the water continues to flow as if nothing had happened.


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