In conjunction with the fourth anniversary of the murder of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni in Egypt by the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Cairo is preparing for major military cooperation with Rome. The Egyptian navy is planning to purchase a pair of multi-functional warships worth €2.4 billion ($2.6 billion) from the Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri. It is believed that this deal is part of Cairo’s undeclared efforts to bury the Regeni case. The Italian attorney general had already accused five Egyptian police officers of disappearing, torturing and murdering the Cambridge University PhD student. Interests ahead of human rights Regeni, who was researching independent trade unions in Egypt, disappeared from a Cairo metro station on January 25, 2016, on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution, when he was on his way to meet a friend downtown. His body was found on the side of a highway on the outskirts of Cairo a few days later, with traces of heavy torture.

The Egyptian regime tried to obliterate the case by killing five Egyptians, accusing them of being a gang that kidnapped Regeni, stole his belongings and killed him, before returning and admitting that the security services were monitoring the researcher a long time before his death. After years of Egypt refusing to reveal the truth, the Italian attorney general included five Egyptian officers on a list for investigation. However, the Egyptian regime have refused to investigate its officers, and the case is still pending. The military deal prepared by Cairo and Rome is an undisclosed attempt to bury the Regeni case. An Egyptian official has previously stated that, “the expansion of common economic interests, and the Italian appreciation for Egypt’s efforts to stop illegal immigration from its shores, means that the Regeni case will continue to circulate.”

Economic cooperation between Egypt and Italy is not limited to the Fincantieri deal alone. The investments of Eni Group, an Italian oil and gas company headquartered in Rome, in Egypt, have amounted to $13 billion dollars during the past three years. The company continues to expand its investments and to discover new gas wells in the Zohr field and other new gas and oil fields in the Western Sahara. The amount of trade between the two countries reached $7.2 billion in 2018, according to Egypt’s minister of trade and industry. In addition, last December, the Italian ambassador to Cairo and the Egyptian minister of military industry signed a memoranda to enhance cooperation in the field of military industrialisation.

A pale Italian protest against the arrest of Patrick George While the Regeni case is “circulating in circles,” a number of Italian officials expressed their condemnation of another torture incident in Egypt. La Repubblica, an Italian daily newspaper, said that Italy’s foreign minister is following the detention and torture of the Egyptian masters student and researcher on gender issues Patrick George, who was studying in Italy and came to visit his family in Egypt.

Erasmo Palazzotto, head of the inquiry committee of the Regeni case in parliament, said on his Twitter account that the Italian government cannot ignore the incident and continue its relationship with a country that violates human rights, noting George’s arrest: “How do we consider Egypt a safe country?” Palazzotto asked. Lia Quartapelle, a member of the Italian foreign affairs committee, has asked her government to investigate George’s case. Patrick George’s case is not expected to stir any tension in the bilateral relations between Italy and Egypt, as the matter will not go beyond mere statements by human rights defenders or parliamentarians without any real action on the ground.