Regeni 'held in Cairo police station' before murder, says witness
The witness, who has been verified by Italian investigators, said the security officials alleged to have detained the Italian behaved as if they were above the law, adding that they tampered with the 28-year-old's cellular phone "in order to hinder the investigation by Italian authorities".
"Those people that took Giulio were different," he said, according to the Guardian. "Everyone is afraid of [Egypt’s] National Security Agency."
The witness' testimony is part of a mammoth investigation on the part of the Italian authorities to bring to justice four members of the Egyptian NSA accused of Regeni's murder.
Prosecutors in Rome formally requested a trial in absentia last week for the four officers on charges of kidnapping, conspiracy to murder and grievous bodily harm. A preliminary hearing was set for April 29.
Regeni’s mutilated body was found on the outskirts of Cairo days after he disappeared, after being on a supposed research expedition over trade unions in Egypt.
His death sparked outrage in Italy and strained diplomatic relations between the two countries, with Italy's government accusing Egypt of failing to cooperate.
Italian prosecutors say Regeni suffered days of ill-treatment before his death. His mother, Paola Defendi, said she only recognised her son by "the tip of his nose".
In December, Egypt's public prosecutor cleared five police officers of responsibility of the murder and said he would drop the case - a decision Rome slammed as "unacceptable", as the group included the four men accused by Rome.
Despite the diplomatic tensions over the case, Italy last year approved a $1.2-billion sale of two warships to Egypt.