Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1303, (14 - 20 July 2016)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1303, (14 - 20 July 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Editorial: Regeni

Al-Ahram Weekly

What does Rome want from Cairo? What is the real objective of its campaign with regard to the handling of the Giulio Regeni case? Does it expect the Egyptian government to confess to having murdered the young Italian researcher? Is this what it will take to satisfy the Italian parliament and enable politicians there to claim a political victory?

The Italian parliament’s move to suspend providing Egypt with spare parts for its US-made F-16 fighters as punishment for its failure to unearth the person guilty of killing Regeni is an absurd escalation of contention over this case and all the more remarkable in light of the intelligence and political acumen for which European parliamentarians are generally noted.

The escalation is totally unwarranted. Its penalisation of Egypt does not work to promote or defend alleged Italian rights, but rather promotes or assists terrorism by helping to undermine Egypt’s combat capacities. Ultimately, it is also harming Italy itself, and Italian security, given the high priority accorded to the fight against terrorism — whether in Egypt or in Libya — on the agenda of bilateral relations between the two countries at all levels of political, military and intelligence cooperation.

It is an incomprehensible escalation in terms of its potential outcomes. Have Italian officials or politicians worked out their next step? Will they suspend military and security cooperation with Egypt? Have they fully fathomed the dangers of proceeding down this path and its impact on our bilateral relations?

It is a laughable escalation because it reminds us of the games the British played preparatory to their invasion of Egypt. Does Italy believe that it has the power to turn the clock back and reproduce the invasion of a north African country? Do parliamentary leaders in Italy understand the significance of the steps they have taken?

One cannot help but laugh at some of the reports published by major Italian newspapers about the condition of state security agencies in Egypt. Some go as far as to describe dark abandoned villas, lurking behind high walls on the outskirts of Egypt’s cities, used as human slaughterhouses and torture centres where detainees and abductees are tormented after which their corpses are tossed into the streets. Apparently, on the basis of such fictions, which do not reflect well on the professionalism of the Italian press, the Italian parliament formulates its decisions and policies.

Egypt has offered the Italian government facilities never before accorded to any other foreign government. It permitted judicial cooperation in the investigation at the highest levels. It gave them access to numerous documents and evidence. An Italian team took part in the investigations that are still ongoing and that Egypt is pursuing with the fullest energy, out of its commitment to its bilateral relationship with Italy at the official and popular levels.

Certainly, Italy and the family of the victim have every right to demand that everything possible be done to find the killer in order to bring him to justice. However, no one has the right to take measures inspired by a spirit of vindictiveness and belligerency. This is a troublesome path to go down as it can lead to a cycle of reciprocity.

What if the Egyptian parliament adopted resolutions calling on our government to take actions to retaliate against the recent Italian move? What if there evolved a tit-for-tat situation that jeopardised security and military relations between our two countries at this critical moment in the history of these nations on the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean basin?

Italian politicians clearly entangled the Regeni case with their party political conflicts and electoral rivalries, rendering it vulnerable to the tactics of one-upmanship and ultimately embroiling their country in a problem with unpredictable consequences. This blending of a criminal investigation with politics and patriotic sentiments with political party interests is a very dangerous brew.

A political party leader in the Italian parliament described the resolution as “a mere affirmation of the solidness of the relations with Egypt and the desire to help it bring the truth to light”. How did this same party leader imagine that statement would be received in Egypt in light of the Italian parliament’s action?

We need to find a language for communicating with Rome and we should do so quickly. In the process, we might ask Italian officials to explain their retreat from taking action against Cambridge University and Dr Maha Azzam.

Let’s try to reopen the dialogue between the Egyptian and Italian parliaments with level-headed people from both sides steering it in a manner that ensures that both countries can safeguard their higher interests while simultaneously continuing the investigation into the murder of Regeni until the truth is uncovered and the killer is identified and brought to justice in a proper court of law on the basis of legal evidence and rational argumentation, as opposed to fictions out of the realm of fancy published and broadcast in the media with no sense of a need to offer tangible proof.

A large number of Egyptians are also keen to learn the truth about the murder of Regeni. They would also like to bring an end to this case which often seems to have strayed from its original goal of bringing the truth to light to the goal of blackmailing Egypt, the Egyptian people and their government, and undermining Egyptian-Italian relations that have always been strong and close at all levels, especially in the support Italy gave Egypt following the 30 June 2013 Revolution and in light of their common fate in their war against terrorism in the Middle East and Libya in particular.

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