Fake news: Zaki faces charges

Pretoria News - - WROLD - |

THE EGYP­TIAN pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice is pur­su­ing a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an Egyp­tian re­searcher study­ing in Italy on charges of spread­ing fake news that posed a threat to se­cu­rity and so­cial sta­bil­ity.

Pa­trick Zaki, a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Bologna, was ar­rested ear­lier this month when he ar­rived at Cairo Air­port on a visit to see his fam­ily, the Cairo-based Egyp­tian Ini­tia­tive for Per­sonal Rights (EIPR) where he is also a re­searcher, said.

Zaki is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated over charges of “broad­cast­ing false news aimed at dis­rupt­ing se­cu­rity and so­cial peace, and for us­ing the in­ter­net to dis­rupt pub­lic or­der and en­dan­ger so­ci­ety,” the pros­e­cu­tor’s state­ment said.

An EIPR lawyer, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said Zaki de­nied all the charges and that his client had mostly been ques­tioned about his hu­man rights work when he was liv­ing in Egypt. The lawyer, who said he spoke to Zaki af­ter his ar­rest, said the post­grad­u­ate stu­dent told him he had been in­ter­ro­gated while blind­folded, and had been beaten and sub­jected to elec­tric shocks.

The pros­e­cu­tor’s state­ment said there “were no vis­i­ble signs of in­juries” on Zaki while he was be­ing ques­tioned, and that Zaki him­self de­nied the ex­is­tence of any in­juries.

An In­te­rior Min­istry of­fi­cial said al­le­ga­tions of tor­ture were un­founded.

Au­thor­i­ties say curb­ing fic­ti­tious news is nec­es­sary for na­tional se­cu­rity. They reg­u­larly ac­cuse re­searchers and news out­lets of a lack of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in cov­er­ing Egypt, and urge re­porters to use only of­fi­cial out­lets as sources.

Rights ac­tivists say Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah al-Sisi, who came to power af­ter lead­ing the over­throw of Is­lamist for­mer pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Mursi, has presided over the worst crack­down on free­doms in Egypt’s mod­ern his­tory.

Thou­sands of ac­tivists, most of them Is­lamists but also in­clud­ing dozens of lib­er­als and left­ists, have been jailed in Egypt un­der reg­u­la­tions im­posed since 2013.

Al-Sisi and his back­ers say such mea­sures are needed to keep Egypt sta­ble and counter threats from Is­lamist mil­i­tants.

Lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights groups and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment have con­demned Zaki’s ar­rest and called for his im­me­di­ate re­lease.

RE­SEARCHER Pa­trick Zaki

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