Italy won't accept Egypt's 'fabricated' account of Regeni's death

Italy won't accept Egypt's 'fabricated' account of Regeni's death
Italian officials have turned up the heat on Egypt, warned it will not accept a "fabricated" account of Giulio Regeni's brutal murder when Egypt's delegation arrive in Rome.
4 min read
05 April, 2016
Protesters have called for an independent investigation into Regeni's death [Getty]

Italy on Tuesday warned Egypt it would not accept a "fabricated" account of the brutal murder of student Giulio Regeni from a delegation of prosecutors and police due in Rome.

As Cairo confirmed the investigative team would fly to the Italian capital on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said there would be immediate consequences if Rome's demands for greater transparency over Regeni's fate were not met.

The 28-year-old, a PhD candidate at Cambridge University, was found dead on the outskirts of Cairo on 3 February, his body bearing the signs of torture, which an autopsy concluded had been inflicted over several days.

On 25 March, Cairo announced police had killed four members of a criminal gang specialising in abducting foreigners, and that they had found Regeni's passport in an apartment belonging to the sister of one of the slain suspects.

That version of events has been greeted with outraged scepticism in Italy, where there is a widespread suspicion that the murder was the work of elements in the security services. Cairo has rejected such accusations as baseless.

"We are on the eve of important meetings which could be decisive for the progress of the investigation," Gentiloni told politicians.

He reiterated that Italy regarded the kidnapping gang story as a "new attempt to give credence to a convenient truth" and said he would reject any attempt to have it accepted as "a conclusion to the investigation".

Close ties at risk

Gentiloni said Rome was still waiting to receive Regeni's mobile phone records and CCTV images from the neighbourhood in which he was abducted. Italy was also seeking information on Regeni having "probably been placed under surveillance prior to his abduction", the minister said.

Images released by police of Regeni's belongings [MoI]
Read more: Egypt to admit spying on murdered Italian student Regeni

If these elements are not forthcoming, Gentiloni warned of damage to the usually close relations between the two countries.

"The government is ready to react by adopting immediate and proportionate measures," he said, rejecting suggestions Italy could not afford a bust-up with a major trade and security partner.

"In the name of reasons of state, we will not accept a fabricated truth... and we will not allow the dignity of our country to be walked all over."

Egypt's public prosecutor's office said the team headed for Rome would be led by deputy general prosecutor Mostafa Suleiman and would "present the results of the investigation conducted by the Egyptian general prosecution in the case so far".

The delegation was initially due in Rome on Tuesday, but the trip was delayed for undisclosed reasons.

Barely recognisable

Regeni disappeared in central Cairo on 25 January, the anniversary of the 2011 revolution. His body was found nine days later on the side of a motorway, badly mutilated and showing signs of torture.

Regeni had been researching labour movements in Egypt, a sensitive topic, and had written articles critical of the government under a pen name.

He disappeared on a day when Cairo was almost deserted and security tight as the country marked the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

The government is ready to react by adopting immediate and proportionate measures.
- Paolo Gentiloni

"I won't tell you what they had done to him," Regeni's mother, Paola, told the Italian parliament after seeing her son's battered body.

"I recognised him just by the tip of his nose. The rest of him was no longer Giulio."

Underlining the domestic pressure Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government is under, she said she had taken a photograph of his mutilated body, and was prepared to publish it if Cairo continued to refuse to share the findings of its probe with the Italian police.

Since the 2013 ousting of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, rights groups have accused Egypt's security services of carrying out illegal detentions, forced disappearances of activists and the torture of detainees.

Since Morsi's removal by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a police crackdown targeting Morsi's supporters has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands jailed.

Hundreds more, including Morsi himself, have been sentenced to death in mass trials.