Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1284, (25 February - 2 March 2016))
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1284, (25 February - 2 March 2016))

Ahram Weekly

Ongoing investigation

Mystery still surrounds the murder of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni, writes Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

“Egypt is exerting huge efforts to investigate and unravel the mysterious torture and murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni,” Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar said on Monday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

“We have allotted maximum importance to the investigation given our relations with Italy and the Italian government. We won’t leave this crime unsolved,” said Abdel-Ghaffar. He added that the Interior Ministry is fully cooperating with Italian detectives in Egypt. “The Italian team is working in collaboration with us and is receiving full briefings of the ongoing investigation.”

Abdel-Ghaffar, and Egypt’s ambassador to Italy, Amr Helmi, have repeatedly refuted Italian media reports accusing Egypt’s security agencies of being involved in Regeni’s death.

“It never happened,” Abdel-Ghaffar said at a press conference two weeks ago 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,” he said.

Last week the head of the Interior Ministry’s Security Information Centre issued an English-language statement refuting Western newspaper reports that claimed Regeni had been arrested by the police shortly before his death.

“The team investigating Regeni’s disappearance and subsequent murder is working in collaboration with Italian investigators and the outcome of the investigation will be made public when inquiries are complete,” said the statement.

Regeni, 28, a PhD student at Cambridge University, was in Cairo researching Egypt’s labour movement. Reported missing on the fifth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution, his body was found nine days later on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road.

Last week the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that a Cairo street vendor had told Italian detectives he saw plainclothed officers detaining Regeni on 25 January outside the metro station close to the Italian’s flat in Dokki.

The account first surfaced in the New York Times which ran a story claiming: “Three Egyptian security officials who said they had inquired about the case said that Regeni had been taken into custody by the authorities because he had been impertinent with the officers. ‘He was very rude and acted like a tough guy,’ one of the officials said.”The New York Times added that the three officials, who were interviewed separately, said that Regeni had “drawn suspicion because of contacts on his phone that the officials said included people associated with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the leftist April 6 Youth Movement”.

Later, Corriere della Sera appeared to backtrack, reporting, “The witnesses tracked down by the US newspaper do not appear to be fully credible.”

Regeni’s last known communication appears to have been at 7:41pm on 25 January when Corriere della Sera says he sent a message to his girlfriend on Facebook saying, “I’m going to see Dr Hassanein.” Hassanein is an expert on Egypt’s labour movement. A judicial source told Al-Ahram Online that the prosecution had received mobile tracking reports showing that Regeni’s last phone call was at 7:20pm when he called an Italian friend and spoke for 20 minutes.

Khaled Okasha, director of the National Centre for Security Studies, told Al-Ahram Weekly that while the English statement issued by the Interior Ministry was late it could help clear up confusion in Western public opinion.

The Forensics Authority sent its final autopsy report on Regeni to the prosecutor-general’s office on Saturday. Though the prosecutor’s office has said it will not disclose the contents of the report while investigations are ongoing, a senior source at the Forensics Authority told Reuters, “Regeni had seven broken ribs, signs of electrocution on his penis, traumatic injuries all over his body, and a brain haemorrhage.”

His body also bore signs of cuts from a sharp instrument, suspected to be a razor, abrasions and bruises. “He was likely assaulted using a stick as well as being punched and kicked,” the source said.

A second autopsy, conducted after Regini’s body was returned to Italy, confirmed that the student had been subjected to what Italian Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano described as “inhuman, animal-like” violence. Italian news agency ANSA quoted 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.”

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”.

Italian news agency ANSA quoted an Egyptian security source saying, “Two people have been arrested, suspected of the murder”.

Security sources have ruled any “political or terrorist aspects” to the murder, describing it as a “criminal act”.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told Italian media that the arrests had done nothing to clarify the circumstances of Regeni’s brutal murder.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi reiterated his call for Egypt to come clean about the murder of Regeni. Renzi said on 21 February that he would never accept “a fake, haphazard truth” from Egypt, describing Italy and Egypt as friends but stressing: “We demand the truth from our friends.”

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