Patrick Zaki, today the hearing: “I dreamed that I was really free”

from Marta Serafini

Today in Mansoura in the new hearing the court will decide whether to drop all the charges and let Patrick return to Bologna (unless a postponement)


CAIRO – The other night I dreamed that I was free, for real. He sleeps little Patrick. Being outside is a great relief. But it’s hard to rest when your life depends on someone else’s decisions. Like today, when in the crowded Mansoura court, the same one that decided his release on 7 December, a new hearing will be held in this complicated case that began almost two years ago.

I should be among the first to call. Yellow jacket, curls gathered in a pigtail that almost became a bun, tired eyes, Patrick returned to the headquarters of Eipr, his NGO which, in the meantime, moved to the seventh floor of a building in Dokki, Cairo. For a moment, again, the smile of a student from the University of Bologna like everyone else on his face. Did you see the game last night ?. Football, the great passion. On Sunday evening, Egypt snatched the semi-final of the Africa Cup from Morocco after a hard-fought match, complete with brawls, screams and chaos among the players. Legs. And ankles, on which they make you do it to not make you run anymore. On Patrick’s left there is a new tattoo. the entry stamp they gave me in my passport on my return from Bologna, just before my arrest. On the right hand, a record, a gift from Reny, the red-haired girlfriend who jumped on his neck in front of the door of the Mansoura police station.

Euphoria, joy. Friends to hug again and holidays with family and Italy, all to be thanked for the support received. Then, again, the anguish and uncertainty. To give some peace in the last few days, the books for examining women’s movements in modern and contemporary history, the one I should have taken two years ago. From Mary Wollstonecraft, philosopher and voice of liberal feminism of the late eighteenth century, to Judith Butler, contemporary philosopher. An hour and a half via zoom. And then 30 and praise. A comfort. Like the packet of fresh tortellini arrived from Bologna also to celebrate the recovery from Covid.

Marise, mum Hala and dad George are already on their way to Mansoura. They have never been interested in politics and now their life has changed forever…. The syllables float in the air. In the background, the geopolitics and twisted logic of the Egyptian regime. In recent days, the Biden administration has written off $ 130 million in aid to Egypt, accused of failing to comply with human rights agreements and not having exonerated a number of activists, including Zaki. Then those instead released in recent weeks, including Ramy Shaath who was allowed to return to Paris. And finally, the most disliked by the government because they are part of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which ten were sentenced to death on Sunday.

From the next room emerges Hoda Nasrallah, Patrick’s lawyer. Coptic, too. The same woman he cited in that article denouncing the violations of the rights of the Christian minority for which he is now on trial on charges of spreading false news. Tomorrow’s session is decisive, I have some tricks up my sleeve, she says with a smile to get together and get stronger. Then the gaze goes to Patrick. Difficult to make predictions. Best case scenario is that the judge drops all charges, finally letting Zaki return to his life. But it could also sentence him to pay a fine by imposing a ban on expatriation, as was the case for Hossam Bahgat, director of the Eipr. Or, in the worst case, it could decide his return to prison, for up to 5 years. Difficult forecasts to make, while a postponement cannot even be ruled out, explains Nasrallah.

Patrick prepares for court. No amulets I am not superstitious. In his pocket he will have the book of his friend Alaa (the activist Abd-el Fattah sentenced to 5 years just a month ago, ed
). But also the hope that the next classroom will be of another kind. That of the University of Bologna, possibly, without bars. Because there I want to go back. As a free man.

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