Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1282, (11- 17 February 2016)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1282, (11- 17 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

‘Inhuman, animal-like violence’

Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar denies murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni was detained by security forces, Ahmed Morsy reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar denies that Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, who was found dead bearing signs of torture after disappearing in Cairo on 25 January, was ever held by Egyptian security forces.

“It never happened,” Abdel-Ghaffar said during a press conference on Monday when asked if Regeni had been detained by the police.

“There have been rumours and stories in the press linking the security apparatus to the incident. It is completely unacceptable that such accusations are being directed at the Interior Ministry. We are doing our best to identify and arrest the perpetrators of the incident as soon as possible.”

Regeni, 28, a PhD student at Cambridge University, was in Cairo to research Egypt’s trade unions. He was reported missing on the fifth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.

The Italian daily Il Manifesto revealed on Friday that Regeni had been writing for it under pseudonym and that his articles had been sharply critical of the security policies being followed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

The Italian edition of the news website The Local has reported that the “Italian media are now pointing fingers at Egyptian security services”, with many papers saying the autopsy results show “signs of torture which suggests that his killers believed that he was a spy”.  Italian daily La Stampa was more explicit, appearing with the headline “Egyptian police under accusation”.

The Italian daily La Repubblica reported that Regeni’s autopsy revealed he had “his finger and toe nails pulled out” and concluded that his “death squad killers believed him to be a spy”.

Two autopsies have been carried out on the student’s body, one in Cairo and a second in Rome.

On Monday Egypt’s Forensic Medicine Authority announced its initial autopsy results and said its final report will be completed by next week. The initial report identified the cause of death as blunt force trauma delivered by a sharp object to the back of the head causing a cranial fracture and severe intracranial haemorrhaging. It also noted signs of torture on the body, including cigarette burns, bruises and cuts.

The second autopsy, conducted following the body’s repatriation to Rome on Saturday, revealed what Italy’s Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano called “inhuman, animal-like” violence. Italian news agency ANSA quoted unidentified sources close to the Italian coroners saying: “the findings showed that Regeni’s neck was twisted, the vertebra was broken and he was left unable to breathe”. They also reported that the Italian student had fractures all over his body.

During his press conference Abdel-Ghaffar confirmed that an Italian team of investigators is in Egypt and cooperating on the case. Italian officials had strenuously petitioned Egypt to allow a joint investigation into the killing.

“The joint investigation is proof of the two countries’ mutual desire to identify the culprits who committed this criminal, shameful act,” said Egyptian ambassador to Rome Amr Helmi.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said that Egypt appears to be cooperating with Italian detectives and forensic experts sent to Cairo. He warned “we will not settle for alleged truths”.

The Local says Italian officials’ anger over Regeni’s death was exacerbated by their being initially told the student had been killed in a road accident. After visiting the body in the morgue Italy’s ambassador to Cairo confirmed Regeni’s corpse showed signs of torture, yet officials at the Ministry of Interior told Al-Youm Sabei news website that Regeni died in a road accident.

Giza prosecutor Ahmed Nagi, who is leading the investigation, told CNN that Regeni was found half-naked, with bruises on his face, cuts to his ear and cigarette burns on his body. “He died slowly. The initial examination of the body indicates that what happened was not a coincidence, and we suspect that it’s a criminal act,” Nagi said.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi spoke with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and assured him that law enforcement officials had been “instructed to continue their efforts to unravel the mystery surrounding the incident and follow up on all the circumstances surrounding it”, according to a statement issued by the presidency last Thursday.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said on Friday that the coordination and contacts at the most senior levels reflect the strength of the relationship between Italy and Egypt and a common desire to find out what happened to Regeni.

A group of local NGO’s published a joint press statement commenting on Regeni’s death. “Apart from the personal consequences, this incident undermines Egypt’s reputation as a safe place,” noted the NGOs.  They compared Regeni’s death to last year’s killing of Mexican tourists in the Western Desert when the army mistook them for terrorists. The signatories included the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the Association of Freedom of Thoughts and Expression, Al-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and the Land Centre for Human Rights.

More than 4,600 academics around the world have signed an open letter demanding an investigation into the death of Regeni and into the “growing number of forced disappearances” in Egypt. The letter, published in the Guardian, attracted signatories from more than 90 countries and across a wide range of disciplines.

The letter notes that, according to human rights organisations, state institutions in Egypt “routinely practise the same kinds of torture that Giulio is reported to have suffered against hundreds of Egyptian citizens each year”. It calls for an independent investigation into Regeni’s death and “all instances of forced disappearances, cases of torture and deaths in detention during January and February 2016 … in order that those responsible for these crimes can be identified and brought to justice.”

Abdel-Ghaffar dismissed reports of “any forced disappearance of young people” as baseless rumour.

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