Last messages show Giulio Regeni was worried student, not spy

Last messages show Giulio Regeni was worried student, not spy
Messages sent by Giulio Regeni to a friend show the slain student was an academic fearful of Egypt's 'brutal' regime, not a spy.
2 min read
15 June, 2021
The Italian Cambridge student was killed in 2016 [Getty]

Some of the last messages sent by Giulio Regeni contradict claims he was a spy and instead show the slain Italian student was concerned about Egypt's "brutal dictatorship".

The messages sent to a friend and newly published by The Guardian show Regeni, who was killed by Egyptian intelligence agents in 2016, was concerned about the risks he could face conducting academic research in the country.

"Egypt is in a difficult state right now," the Cambridge University student wrote before leaving for Cairo in 2015.

"The dictatorship is back and until recently it wasn’t clear how brutal it was going to become," Regeni wrote to a friend who shared the messages with The Guardian. "This state of affairs is very precarious."

Regeni, who was 27 years old at the time of his death, went on to describe the political situation in Egypt as "depressing".

The Italian student had previously lived in the country in 2013 when current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power in a military coup.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians including political opponents and journalists have been arrested in a wide-ranging crackdown since then. 

Nearly 3,000 were subject to enforced disappearances between 2015 and 2020, according to the Egyptian Commission for Human Rights.

Regeni's disappearance and subsequent murder are unusual, however, due to his nationality. 

He went missing in late January 2016. His body was later found by the side of a road displaying clear signs of extreme torture.

Italian prosecutors have concluded Egyptian security officials kidnapped and murdered Regeni after he was suspected of being a spy. Egypt has refused to extradite the four suspects to Italy, with Egyptian authorities having cleared five people of involvement in the murder.

The newly published messages show that Regeni feared he was under surveillance, according to The Guardian.

Nonetheless, the Cambridge student continued with his research, asking a friend for help with his written English just days before his death.