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As Sisi meets Macron, Egypt renews detention of human rights activist

A number of detained members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights were released last week, but Zaki remains in custody pending similar charges
Patrick George Zaki has been in custody since 7 February upon his return from Italy, where he had been living and studying (Twitter)

A leading human rights activist from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) has had his detention renewed for a third time by an Egyptian court on Monday, the organisation said.

According to EIPR, the Third Terrorism Circuit of the Criminal Court announced the renewal of the detention of Patrick George Zaki, a researcher at the organisation, for a period of 45 days.

Authorities arrested Zaki on 7 February upon his return from Italy, where he had been living and studying. 

Security forces allegedly held him incommunicado for 24 hours and tortured him before charges against him were announced. 

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Zaki is currently facing a range of charges, including "calling for protests without permission," "spreading false news," and "inciting violence and terrorism". 

Three members of the EIPR were also arrested in November after meeting with diplomats from France, the United States and several other European countries. 

On Thursday, the jailed activists, including the organisation's head Gasser Abdelrazek, criminal justice director Karim Ennarah and administrator Mohamed Basheer were released from jail after an international campaign calling for their release.

However, EIPR's assets have now been frozen by the Egyptian public prosecutor, according to the group.

Zaki, 28, had worked for EIPR as a researcher on gender and sexuality rights.

He is also a human rights advocate, and he has campaigned for the truth about the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni four years ago.

Most of the questions he received during his interrogation were related to his Facebook posts, according to Human Rights Watch.

Zaki's arrest has sparked a solidarity campaign in Italy, with politicians and activists urging Egyptian authorities to release him. 

Italian human rights activists have expressed concerns that Zaki could be at risk of torture and ill-treatment in Egypt's notorious prisons, drawing parallels with the torture of Regeni. 

Regeni's family has also expressed solidarity with the detained activist.

Sisi in France

The news comes as Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi arrived in France on Sunday evening for a three-day visit.

Rights groups urged Macron to raise the issue of human rights with Sisi.

France was quick to condemn Egypt for jailing the EIPR activists in November and said it had "deep concern" over the arrests.

Egypt, however, rebuffed France's criticism, calling it an attempt to interfere in its internal affairs and influence its investigations. 

Under Sisi, Egypt has seen a widespread crackdown against human rights groups and independent media, with thousands detained since his election in 2014.

Executions in the country have also spiked this year, with dozens carried out after questionable trials in recent months.

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