Human rights defender Patrick Zaki George, who suffers from asthma, is at particular risk if exposed to COVID-19 in Tora Investigation Prison. On 5 May 2020, Supreme State Security prosecutors (SSSP) renewed his detention for 15 days pending investigations without Patrick or his lawyer present. The prison authorities failed to transfer him to the SSSP for seven weeks to attend his detention renewal session.
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Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi
Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy
Fax: +202 2577 4716
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Yasser Reda
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 895 5400 I Fax: 202 244 5131
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Amid rising fears over the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Egypt’s overcrowded prisons, the Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release prisoner of conscience Patrick Zaki George. Patrick should never have been detained for his legitimate work as a human rights defender. His asthma puts him at a higher risk to the virus according to the World Health Organization’s list of vulnerable groups. The well-documented concerns over overcrowded, unhygienic and unsanitary detention conditions in Egyptian prisons aggravate risks of the spread of COVID-19 infections.
Patrick’s last family prison visit was on 9 March 2020. The following day, the Egyptian authorities suspended all prison visits as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, the authorities failed to introduce regular alternative means of communication between detainees and their families and lawyers, including bi-monthly phone calls as prescribed by Egyptian law. Some, but not all, inmates have been able to send and receive letters.
On 7 February 2020, immigration officers at Cairo airport arbitrarily arrested human rights researcher Patrick Zaki George at 4:30 am upon his return from Italy where he had been doing an Erasmus study program in Bologna. According to his lawyers, Egyptian National Security Agency (NSA) officers asked him about his human rights work during his time in Egypt and beat him on his stomach and back and tortured him with electric shocks on his upper body during interrogation. The following day, prosecutors in al-Mansoura ordered his detention for 15 days pending investigations on “terrorism”-related charges. Prosecutors said they were relying on Facebook posts as evidence but did not allow him or his lawyer to examine them.
I ask you to immediately and unconditionally release Patrick Zaki George as his detention stems solely from his human rights work and political opinions he has expressed on social media. I also urge you to open an independent investigation into torture allegations. I further urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience. All persons in detention in Egypt must be guaranteed access to lawyers, family and adequate healthcare, especially if they are at high risk of COVID-19.