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Egyptian activist Patrick Zaki released from prison after nearly two years

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By Euronews  with AP
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This handout image provided by Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), shows rights activist Patrick George Zaki hugging his sister after his release, on Dec. 8, 2021.
This handout image provided by Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), shows rights activist Patrick George Zaki hugging his sister after his release, on Dec. 8, 2021.   -   Copyright  Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) / AP

Egyptian authorities have released rights activist Patrick George Zaki on Wednesday, after spending nearly two years in jail in a case that has drawn significant international attention, a human rights group said.

Zaki walked free from a police station in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, just a day after a local court ordered his release pending trial, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

He had worked with the group as a gender rights researcher.

"Patrick has been just released," the group tweeted, attaching a photo of Zaki out in the street, wearing a white prison shirt and hugging his sister.

Zaki's arrest and trial made national headlines in Italy and sparked a wave of student protests across the country.

For many Italians, his detention was reminiscent of the 2016 death of Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni, who was killed after being kidnapped and tortured in Cairo.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has vowed to continue following Zaki's case.

The 29-year-old rights advocate and student at the University of Bologna in Italy was charged with spreading false news about Egypt, both domestically and abroad, after writing an opinion piece on discrimination against Coptic Christians in Egypt.

He was arrested in February 2020, shortly after landing in Cairo on what was supposed to be a short visit home from Italy. His trial has been postponed until February next year.

The Egyptian activist's case has brought international condemnation of the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Under el-Sissi, Egypt has seen the heaviest crackdown on dissent in decades.

Officials have targeted not only Islamist political opponents but also pro-democracy activists, journalists, and online critics.

Lengthy pretrial detentions have become a common way of keeping the government's critics behind bars for as long as possible.