Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek has ordered an investigation into the death of an Egyptian in an Italian prison a fortnight ago. Sadek ordered the prosecution’s International Cooperation Office to prepare an official request to urge Italian authorities to review the results of their investigation into the death.
Hani Hanafi, 30, was found dead in a Sicilian prison and Italian investigators said that an investigation proved that he committed suicide in his cell. Last week, Cairo International Airport released Hanafi’s body which later was sent to the Zeinhom morgue for an autopsy. On Saturday, Hanafi was buried in his hometown in Alexandria.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry demanded an investigation into Hanafi’s death. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri asked the Egyptian Embassy in Rome to monitor the case and follow up with Italian authorities on the results of the investigation.
“The Foreign Ministry ordered the Egyptian Embassy in Rome to open an investigation into the causes of death, what led to the incident and to ensure that Italian authorities communicate the findings as soon as possible,” a ministry statement said.
Consequently, the Egyptian Embassy consul headed to Rome, to the prison where Hanafi was found, for a meeting with the head of the prosecution and the security director to review the investigation by Italian authorities.
Hanafi, who had entered Italy illegally, was sentenced to four years in prison for assaulting a police officer in 2014 and was scheduled to be released next year. He died one day after a judge denied his request that he be deported to Egypt.
A number of parliament members demanded an urgent statement from Minister of Migration Affairs and Egyptian Expatriates Nabila Makram following Hanafi’s death.
In press statements last week, a member of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Ghada Agami accused Makram’s ministry of negligence. “Where is the ministry’s role in protecting Egyptians abroad?” Agami asked. “There are more than 350 Egyptian citizens in Italian prisons. Where is the ministry’s role in knowing how they are being treated and what they are exposed to? Where is the ministry’s role in returning Hanafi’s body back home?”
In a seemingly related context, Makram signed a cooperation protocol on Monday with the Ministry of Health and Misr Al-Kheir Foundation to facilitate the repatriation of deceased nationals abroad. In accordance with the agreement, Misr Al-Kheir will pay for the repatriation from the place of death to the place of burial in Egypt.
The protocol states that the Migration Ministry will be responsible for attending to the rights of the families of the deceased, in cooperation with other ministries and concerned authorities.
Hanafi’s death lit up social media platforms in the past few days with activists calling him the “Egyptian Regeni”. The epithet refers to Italian PhD student Guilio Regeni who was reported missing in January 2015 before his mutilated and half-naked body was found on 3 February on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road.
Since Regeni’s murder, Rome and Cairo have been engaged in a tense stand-off. Last year Italy recalled its ambassador to protest against the lack of progress in the Regeni probe and has yet to send a replacement.
In its report into Regeni’s murder, Egypt’s Forensic Medicine Authority said the cause of death was 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. An autopsy conducted following the body’s repatriation to Rome revealed what Italian Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano called “inhuman, animal-like” violence. According to Italian news agency ANSA, “the findings showed that Regeni’s neck was twisted, the vertebrae broken and he was left unable to breathe”. ANSA also reported that the Italian student had fractures all over his body.
The prosecutor-general agreed last month to allow experts from Italy and a German company that specialises in salvaging CCTV footage to examine surveillance cameras at Dokki underground metro station as part of the investigation into Regeni’s murder. Italian investigators have been demanding access to the footage for almost a year.
A statement from the prosecutor-general said experts would examine recordings made by the closed-circuit television camera at the metro station in the Cairo neighbourhood of Dokki, where Regeni lived, to find “facts related to the incident and its perpetrators”.
In December, Sadek met Italian prosecutors for two days of talks and handed over documents requested by Italy two months earlier. Egypt has said that police conducted a three-day check on Regeni’s activities but found nothing of interest.
The agreement to allow Rome access to CCTV footage comes as part of the ongoing cooperation between Egyptian and Italian prosecution authorities, Sadek said. On 25 January Italian President Sergio Mattarella called for “broader and more effective cooperation so that the culprits are brought to justice”.