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Egyptian Researcher Patrick Zaki Pardoned Day After Sentencing
Plus: EU-Tunisia Deal, Iraq Expels Swedish Ambassador, Turkey and UAE Sign $50.7 Billion Deals, the Return of Iran's Morality Police, Late Reporter Shireen Abu Akleh Wins Award, and much more.
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Egyptian Researcher Patrick Zaki Pardoned Day After Sentencing
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned on Wednesday, July 19, Patrick Zaki, a detained rights researcher, just one day after he was sentenced to three years in prison for "spreading false news" based on an article he wrote in 2019 about the discrimination faced by Egypt's Christian Copt community.
The decision came amidst strong protests from the Italian government, the US State Department, and various local and international human rights groups.
Along with Zaki, Mohamed El-Baqer, a lawyer for activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, was also pardoned by the Egyptian president on the same day. El-Baqer was arrested in 2019 during his client's interrogation.
Zaki, a graduate student at the University of Bologna in Italy, was arrested during a visit to Egypt in February 2020.
He spent 22 months in pre-trial detention before being released, pending the completion of his trial at a state security court in his hometown of Mansoura, located 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Cairo.
The case drew international condemnation, especially in Italy, where Zaki had been studying before his arrest.
Italy's Senate even granted him Italian citizenship in 2021, and thousands signed petitions calling for his release.
The case of Zaki particularly triggered Italy's public opinion because it echoed the 2016 killing of Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni in Egypt. On that occasion, relations between Cairo and Rome were strained.
Patrick Zaki is expected to arrive in Rome on Saturday, July 22, to begin a new chapter in his life.
Tunisia and EU Sign Deal to Stem Irregular Migration
On Sunday, July 16, Tunisia and the EU signed a deal to address "irregular" migration, which refers to people moving in breach of rules.
Tunisia has become the primary departure point for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
This year alone, 72,000 migrants, mostly bound for Italy, have made the journey, posing challenges for the EU.
The deal involves $118 million to combat smuggling, enhance border security, and facilitate the return of migrants.
However, in recent months, black migrants in Tunisia have faced violent attacks in an increasingly hostile environment.
Tunisia's President Kais Saied accused migrants of being part of a "plot" to change the country's demographic profile, which he attributed to "traitors" working for foreign countries. He later denied being racist.
The EU-Tunisia deal commits to treating migrants at the border with "full respect for human rights" and also aims to establish legal pathways for migration.
Additionally, the deal outlines plans to boost Tunisia's economic growth through "socio-economic reforms" and greater cooperation in green energy transition, education, research, and innovation.
However, a long-term loan of $1 billion previously offered by the EU to help Tunisia's economic crisis remains uncertain, as it depends on the outcome of separate talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which have stalled.
Apart from the migration issue, President Saied faces opposition from Tunisians who accuse him of consolidating power for himself.
The country is grappling with crippling inflation and nearing a significant debt crisis.
Israel Recognizes Moroccan Sovereignty over Western Sahara
Israel recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara this week, with Morocco planning to open a consulate in Dakhla.
The recognition was conveyed in a letter from Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to King Mohammed VI.
Morocco has controlled the territory since 1975, but international recognition has been limited.
Former US President Trump recognized Morocco's claim in 2020 in exchange for improved relations with Israel.
This recognition aims to strengthen ties and regional stability.
Morocco normalized relations with Israel in a US-brokered deal, following the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan.
Turkey and UAE Sign $50.7 Billion Deals, Boosting Diplomatic Ties and Economy
During President Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Abu Dhabi this week, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey signed numerous deals worth an estimated $50.7 billion.
These agreements covered extradition, energy, natural resources development, space, and defense cooperation.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia signed a significant defense contract with Turkey the same week involving the purchase of Turkish drones.
This marks a positive outcome of Erdogan's diplomatic efforts to mend relations with Gulf powers and support Turkey's struggling economy.
The investments and funding from Gulf nations since 2021 have alleviated pressure on Turkey's economy and currency reserves.
Iraq Expels Swedish Ambassador over Quran Burning
Iraq expelled the Swedish ambassador after a man burned the Quran at a Stockholm demonstration last month.
In response to the incident, the Iraqi Prime Minister instructed the Swedish ambassador to leave the country due to Sweden's repeated permission for Quran burnings and insults to Islamic sanctities.
Prior to this, protesters attacked the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, leading to a warning from the Iraqi government that any future Quran-burning protests in Sweden would result in a diplomatic break.
Swedish police had allowed the protest based on freedom of assembly and speech laws.
This follows a previous incident of the Quran burning in Stockholm, which caused outrage in the Muslim world. The Baghdad embassy was targeted again in response to the latest event.
Iran's 'Morality Police' Resume Patrols After 10-Month Nationwide Protests
Nearly ten months after Mahsa Amini's death in police custody, which led to widespread protests across Iran, police vans are once again patrolling the streets to enforce proper hijab wearing among women.
However, this time the vans and officers won't be referred to as the "morality police," and officers will be equipped with body cameras.
The announcement was made on Sunday last week after reports emerged about unmarked vans stopping people, especially women not wearing hijabs, in cities like Tehran and Shiraz.
This move has already sparked demonstrations, with protesters taking to the streets in Rasht after the reported arrest of three women.
Amini died in September following her detention for not wearing the Islamic headscarf correctly. Her family asserted that her death resulted from blows to her head during the arrest, while the regime claimed she had a pre-existing neurological disorder.
Her death triggered significant widespread unrest, leading the Iranian regime to temporarily remove the morality police vans from the streets, acknowledging their actions were alienating the younger generation.
Algeria and China Sign 19 Agreements During Tebboune's Visit
During Algerian President Tebboune's visit to China this week, 19 cooperation agreements were signed in various sectors, including aerospace, agriculture, energy, transportation, technology, education, sports, telecommunications, urban development, trade, and quarantine.
Algeria is also seeking membership in the BRICS alliance.
China has been a vital ally since helping Algeria gain independence from France.
China has sent over 3,500 medical workers to Algeria, providing care to millions, and Algeria's imports from China increased from $400 million in 2003 to $8 billion in 2022.
Israeli President Addresses US Congress Amid Concerns over Judicial Reform Plan
Israeli President Isaac Herzog addressed the Congress during his visit to the United States this week, affirming the strong partnership with Washington.
However, his speech coincided with concerns over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed judicial reform, which sparked protests in Israel.
Despite the challenges, Herzog expressed confidence in Israeli democracy.
He became only the second Israeli president to address Congress and visited Washington to commemorate Israel's 75th anniversary.
President Joe Biden assured Herzog of robust US-Israel ties, while the House of Representatives passed a resolution supporting Israel.
Representative Pramila Jayapal faced backlash for calling Israel a "racist state" but later apologized and clarified her stance.
Late Al-Jazeera Reporter Shireen Abu Akleh Wins 2023 Courage in Journalism Award
The late Al-Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed at 51 while covering a military raid in the West Bank's Jenin refugee camp in May 2022 by Israeli forces, has been honored with the Courage in Journalism Award for 2023 by the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF).
The IWMF described her as a groundbreaking conflict reporter and praised her intrepid reporting through the posthumous #IWMFCourage award.
The award ceremony will be held on October 23 in Washington, DC, followed by events in Los Angeles on October 25 and in New York City on October 30.
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My name is Dario Sabaghi, and I am a freelance journalist interested in international news focusing on the MENA region.
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Cover photo: Ansa - Rai News