Release Patrick immediately and unconditionally - the Public Prosecutor has the power to reverse decisions of remand detention at any time
The EIPR reinstates its main and most pressing demand in the investigation launched against our colleague Patrick George Zaki: his immediate and unconditional release. Patrick is a human rights researcher, an activist who is constantly engaged with issues of public interest, and a postgraduate student at the University of Bologna in Italy. He received a scholarship to study at Bologna and returned to Egypt at the earliest opportunity to visit his family and friends, but he was stopped at the airport and arrested, and subsequently threatened, tortured and interrogated. He was then sent to the public prosecution where he was presented with a long list of accusations that are solely based on writings on social media accounts dating back to September 2019 - accusations that he denied in their entirety.
There is no justification for the detention of Patrick on demand. He does not possess the power to alter the course of the investigation or tamper with evidence, and he has a known and reachable address and a family that were eagerly awaiting his return home and are now eagerly awaiting his release. The Public Prosecution has the powers to order the detention or release of any person subject to investigation at any point during the course of an investigation - and release (on bail or without bail) is meant to be the standard while detention on remand should always be the qualified exception. Art 134 of the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code allows investigative judges to detain a person on remand if there was reasonable cause for detention, and it provides a list of reasonable causes for detention. This confirms that the standard and the norm should be release rather than detention. And if we examine the list of possible causes for detention we will find that they do not apply to Patrick, nor do they apply in most cases where the investigation is based on publishing material on social media platforms. For the alleged crimes in this and similar cases are rarely “flagrant” crimes where a suspect was caught in the act of committing an offence. Additionally, the accused or anyone subject to investigation in these violations rarely have any ability to alter the course of the investigation or to “influence” witnesses (in the event that there were witnesses).
More importantly, we want to emphasise that the investigative judge has the power to release any person under investigation at any time, and that the Public Prosecutor has the power to release any person involved in any investigation case without condition “at any time with or without bail” according to Art 204 of the Criminal Procedure Code - it is obviously under no obligation to adhere to the time frames initially set by detention decisions. These timeframes are meant to be upper-limits for custody, that are not to be exceeded unless the person in question was able to see the investigative judge or the relevant judicial authority -- depending on the stage of the investigation and the body issuing the most recent decision.
We ask the Public Prosecutor to release Patrick George Zaki immediately, and the investigative authorities to close the investigation and dismiss the case, for we do not see any basis for criminal prosecution.
EIPR reaffirms its position that the accusations levelled against Patrick during the prosecution questioning that took place on the 8th of February 2020 are completely baseless, and that the case was marred with procedural irregularity since the arrest report was completely false and fabricated. The police report submitted to the prosecution referred to Patrick’s arrest in a police checkpoint in Mansoura, when in fact he was arrested upon arrival in the Cairo airport one day before the police report’s date. He was then transferred from the airport to more than one National Security Investigations facility where he was blindfolded and tortured while he was being interrogated. His blindfold was not removed until he was in the prosecution office on the morning of February 8th. EIPR’s lawyers have filed a complaint to the Public Prosecutor against the head of Criminal Investigations of Mansoura II Police Station demanding an investigation into the falsification of the arrest report dated 8 February (Complaint no. 9944/2020 Public Prosecutor Petitions). EIPR’s lawyers filed another petition to investigate physical assault and torture incidents that took place before he was sent to prosecution (Complaint no. 9943/2020 Public Prosecutor Petitions). Both complaints were transferred to State Security Prosecutions. We expect the Public Prosecutor to open a prompt investigation into both incidents.