Italy recalls ambassador to Egypt over Regeni murder

Italy recalls ambassador to Egypt over Regeni murder
Italy has recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultations over the murder of student Giulio Regeni in Cairo, as diplomatic relations between the two countries continue to strain.
4 min read
09 April, 2016
Italy has expressed mounting impatience with various Egyptian attempts to explain Regeni's death [Getty]
Rome recalled its ambassador to the Egyptian capital on Friday for consultations over the torture and murder of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, whose death in Cairo strained diplomatic relations between the two states.

Italian officials said an Italian autopsy found signs of "protracted" torture over several days, and that Regeni appears to have died on February 1 or 2.

Premier Matteo Renzi told reporters that decision was made "immediately" after Italian prosecutors gave their assessment of two days of meetings that wrapped up on Friday, with visiting Egyptian investigators they had hoped would deliver useful evidence.

"Italy, as you know, made a commitment to the family of Giulio Regeni naturally, to the memory of Giulio Regeni, but also to the dignity of all us, saying we'd only stop in front of the truth," Renzi said.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni recalled Ambassador Maurizio Massari from Cairo for "urgent evaluation of more opportune initiatives to relaunch the commitment aimed at determining the truth about the barbarous murder of Giulio Regeni," a ministry statement said.

Italian officials said an Italian autopsy found signs of 'protracted' torture over several days

"I recalled to Rome our ambassador in Egypt for consultations. We want only one thing: the truth about Giulio," Gentilioni tweeted.

Recalling the ambassador to Rome "means Italy is confirming this commitment to itself, to the family," the premier said.

But Egypt "has not been officially notified of the recalling of the Italian ambassador nor the reasons behind it," Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu-Zeid said.

The move is seen as a response over Egypt's lack of collaboration into the probe.

"The recall of Italian ambassador is expected in response to the lack of cooperation from the Egyptian side in the investigation into the killing of Giulio Regeni," Ibrahim Yassri, Egypt's former diplomat to Algeria, told The New Arab.

"Egypt needs to be transparent and credible in their cooperation, as the Italian side will not accept information lacking evidence," Yassri added.

"It appears that meetings between the Italian and Egyptian investigators have not been fruitful," he said.

Recalling the ambassador not only had "high symbolic value," but also shows "Italy strongly defends its national decorum and dignity," Pier Ferdinando Casini, head of the Italian Senate foreign affairs commission said.

The Italian ministry did not suggest what other initiatives the government might take against Egypt, which is a big trading partner as well as an ally in anti-terrorism efforts.

Italy's mounting impatience

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Earlier this week, an Egyptian delegation arrived in Rome to for a two-day meeting with Italian prosecutors to look over a 2,000-page Egyptian file of witness interviews, phone records and CCTV footage on Regeni's suspicious murder.

But Italian prosecutors expressed disappointment over Egypt's lack of cooperation into the probe.

A statement from the Rome prosecutors' office said it was still pressing the Egyptians for turn over a list of Regeni's cellphone traffic "in very brief time".

The Egyptian investigators did not bring to Rome the surveillance camera video from near the metro station where Regeni was last seen, the Italian news agency ANSA said.

Italian prosecutors, and Italian police who had gone to Cairo, had repeatedly requested the images.

For its part, Italy turned over the results of the Italian autopsy and what was found on Regeni's computer, the Rome prosecutors' office said.

"The foreign ministry is waiting for the return of the Egyptian team to listen to its evaluation" of what came out of the two days of meetings between both sides' investigators, he said in a statement.

Italy has expressed mounting impatience with various Egyptian attempts to explain Regeni's death, including a latest one blaming the slaying on a robbery gang.

The Rome prosecutors in their statement referred to that version, reiterating the "conviction that there are no elements indicating direct involvement by a band of criminals in the torture and death" of Regeni.

Egyptian authorities recently produced Regeni's passport and student IDs they said had been in the possession of a criminal gang they contend were abducting foreigners for robbery purposes.

The gang members were killed in a shootout with Egyptian police, Egyptian authorities said.

Shortly after Regeni's body was found, Egyptian authorities attributed the death to a road accident.

Last week, Regeni's family urged the Italian government to declare Egypt "unsafe" for Italians to visit, saying their son was only one of many torture victims in the North African country.

Agencies contributed to this report.