"I will fight for human rights" - Corriere.it

"I will fight for human rights" - Corriere.it

Of Giusi Fasano, sent to Bologna

The arrival in Italy after prison in Egypt: "It's the best day of my life"

«It's the most important day of my life, it's nice to be in Italy». On her wrist is the blue bracelet of the campaign for her release. It says Free Patrick Zaki. And he is now free like it never was. Released and pardoned, freer than ever.

Here he is, Patrick Zaki. The researcher, the dreamer, the face of rediscovered human rights. His 32-year-old is tucked into a pair of dark trousers, a white shirt and a blue jacket. And his first words on Italian soil (again) he says at Malpensa airport, to a wall of microphones, cameras, notebooks; smile and show fingers up for v for victory or ok, everything is fine. Now everything is fine, finally.

"There is no language that contains the words to say how I feel, a good feeling," he will say a few hours later in his Bologna, in the rectorate of his university, among his friends. "It's a dream come true, I'm here, in the city to which I belong and which remains the city of freedom".

Bad acoustics, widespread buzz. But he articulates the words well and the words come clear when he says: «I don't forget all the people who have paid and are still paying the price of their commitment, I hope there is a positive solution to their cases, and not only in Egypt. Justice is needed, justice is also needed for Giulio Regeni ».

At a distance, and answering reporters' questions, so not him, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni lets it be known that the Regeni case has not been closed: «I continue to deal with it as I did with Zaki, without talking about it with you» he said.

Patrick is free but he knows well that he is a special observer for his country. He knows that even a word deemed out of place can cost him dearly again, but he promises all the same not to give up anything and never give up. «I am a human rights activist, my odyssey comes from the fact that I am a researcher and an activist. This may not be the end of my labor but my commitment continues. I do not take my freedom for granted, I do not close the door to the past and I support anyone who defends human rights in Egypt. Mine was a success story but in my country there are still hundreds of people in prison, we are asking for their release. They deserve grace like me».

The emotion spreads with the words. Even more excited than him are the rector of the University of Bologna Giovanni Molari and professor Rita Monticelli, among the people who have spent the most time on the former student's cause. Ex because Zaki - a student in Women's Gender Studies of the Gemma Master - graduated remotely on July 5 and yesterday evening she physically received the graduation parchment.

Seen from this festive atmosphere, the controversies over the refusal of the state flight made available by Palazzo Chigi seem long gone. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had already given a cut to the discussion, who had said about free Patrick Zaki: «For us it was an important goal, I'm happy to have achieved it. I don't expect gratitude, I don't care". But it was the same researcher who wanted to return to the subject yesterday: «Thanks to the Italian government for what it has done in the last few days, I really appreciated everything», he said from Cairo before leaving. And he reiterated it at the press conference: among the many thanks also those "at the top of the Italian state, up to the Prime Minister".

In Piazza Maggiore, at the end of the evening, it is the mayor Matteo Lepore who introduces it into the "living room" of the house: «Introducing tonight's band, Patrick Zaki and Friends». In the front row, to applaud, is the secretary of the Pd Elly Schlein, who arrived in Bologna for "the pleasure of coming to listen to Patrick's greetings".

He's here again, Patrick, 1,263 days after that sudden dark. It was February 7, 2020. That day he had just landed in Cairo on vacation when Egyptian secret service agents "picked him up". Destination: prison. Considered a threat to national security and a dangerous subversive, Patrick - of Coptic origins - had been wrong, so to speak, to write an article that spoke of the "ordeal of Coptic Christians in Egypt". An affront to the regime.

22 months in prison followed, details of which the world learned from the mouths of his legal team, his sister Marise or his girlfriend, Reny, both beside him yesterday. «Interrogated and tortured for hours and hours, even with electric shocks»was one of the first information that reached his supporters, a growing and unstoppable wave of friends, university classmates, human rights activists, national and international institutions and politicians...

Twenty-two months of uncertain fate and then, thanks also to international pressurerelease: December 7, 2021. But the accusation of having spread false news remained standing and with that also the ban on leaving Egypt, that is the latest chain that kept him imprisoned in his country until noon yesterday. "Now we fly", he let himself go as soon as the ban was lifted.

Now it flies in all directions. Towards a free future, which is the father of all the goals dreamed of in these three and a half years. Last week, when in the last hearing he was sentenced to another 14 months in prison, he "felt lost", as he says. Twenty-four hours of dark thoughts and then the biggest surprise: the pardon of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

It's been a few days. It seemed to him that each one was worth a lifetime.

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July 24, 2023 (change July 24, 2023 | 07:05)

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