More than 5,000 people, including students, flooded the streets of Bologna on Monday to demand the release of researcher Patrick Zaki jailed by Egyptian authorities.

Protesters marched through the arcades of the city centre and the main squares holding candles and carrying banners reading 'Free Patrick'. Many could be heard shouting "Research is not a crime" and chanting the name of Giulio Regeni, an Italian Cambridge University graduate who was kidnapped and tortured to death by Egyptian authorities in January 2016. The march ended with protesters singing John Lennon's song 'Imagine.'

Among the authorities who joined the rally were Bologna mayor Virginio Merola and the rector of the University of Bologna Francesco Ubertini.

Zaki, a graduate student at the University of Bologna, was arrested on his way to visit his family at Cairo airport on charges of 'harming national security,' sparking fears that his arrest may be linked to his research activity on gender and human rights at the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

He was then transferred to a detention centre in his hometown Mansoura, 120 km northeast of the capital, where according to lawyers he has been threatened and tortured.

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