The 3rd chamber of the counter terrorism court in Cairo, on Sept. 7, renewed the detention of Gerges Sameeh Zaki for a further 45 days.
Zaki was arrested after sectarian violence broke out in the village of Barsha in Minya governorate, Upper Egypt, on Nov. 25, 2020, when hundreds of Muslim villagers attacked the homes and properties of local Christians.
He is accused of “joining a terrorist group, publishing fake news and disturbing public order, and using the internet with the intention to commit crimes.” His detention was renewed a day after the same court renewed the detention of Coptic activist Rami Kamil.
On Nov. 25, 2020 sectarian violence broke out after rumors circulated that Zaki had posted a comment on his personal Facebook page that was deemed insulting to Islam. He claimed his page was hacked.
Following the clashes, the police detained and interrogated 15 Christians and 20 Muslims for 15 days. All were released Jan. 21, except for Zaki, who has remained in custody ever since.
A reconciliation session took place Dec. 9, 2020 and was attended by MPs, religious and community leaders. The participants rejected any offense to any religion or faith.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) called on the Egyptian authorities to drop the charges against Zaki and to release him immediately, saying in a statement: “Article 98(f) of the penal code related to insulting religion leaves the door widely open to misuse this article to abuse freedom of expression and belief.” The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy recently highlighted that, according to Egypt’s Criminal Code pre-trial detention, should not exceed six months for misdemeanors, 18 months for felonies, and two years for felonies punishable by death or life imprisonment.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said, “We urge the Egyptian government to end the practice of prolonging pre-trial detention arbitrarily and indefinitely, and to facilitate the immediate release of Mr. Zaki, Mr. Kamil and others held for pre-trial periods that exceed legal stipulations. We also urge the authorities to adopt measures aimed at combating the culture of collective punishment in the Minya region, and to address the societal hostility underpinning sectarian discord through a robust program of civic education that promotes respect for religious diversity and equality of citizenship. Local human rights organizations like Mr. Kamil’s are key to this effort, and they must be allowed to undertake this work unhindered.”