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Egypt researcher faces charges of 'harming national security'

AFP  |  Cairo 

An Egyptian researcher and activist was arrested on arrival from Italy and charged with "harming national security" and "broadcasting false news", lawyers and his employer have confirmed.

Patrick Zaky, who is a graduate student at Bologna University, was detained at Cairo airport late on Friday as he arrived to visit his family.

He was held on a warrant that had been issued in September after he left to pursue his studies, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a prominent rights organisation where he is a researcher.

The NGO said he was questioned about his research and activism.

He appeared before the public prosecutor on Saturday in his hometown of Mansoura, 130 kilometres north of Cairo in the Delta region, security and judicial sources said.

Zaky faces charges of "incitement to protest without a permit", "inciting to overthrow the state", "running a social media account intent on... harming national security" and "broadcasting false news, as well as "promoting terrorist acts", they told AFP.

He will be held in custody for 15 days for further questioning.

Lawyers from two other rights groups in Egypt confirmed the list of charges.

EIPR said Zaky had been beaten and electrocuted by security forces while in custody overnight, claims AFP could not verify.

The group called for his immediate release.

Riccardo Noury, Amnesty International's spokesperson in Italy, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the researcher is "at risk of prolonged detention and torture".

Zaky is one of a string of human rights defenders to be arrested in recent months.

EIPR also noted that since October last year six of its staff "have been temporarily detained and questioned" in operations apparently targeting "individuals perceived to be politically active in any way".

Since President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi led the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, an ongoing crackdown against Islamists and secular critics has targeted prominent dissidents, academics, activists, journalists and lawyers.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, February 09 2020. 05:20 IST