The momentum of the kidnapping and murder of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni at the hands of Egyptian officers has returned, after a long silence, to reveal the gap between Cairo’s investigations and the one in Rome. According to Western media reports, the Italian prosecutor is about to begin the trial of five Egyptian security officials, within weeks, on charges of torturing and killing Regeni. This came after Italy sent an ultimatum, described as the last one, to Egypt, to cooperate on the case, during a phone call that brought together Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte with Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. During the call, Conte warned al-Sisi against trying to gain time, and demanded that he allow the five National Security Agency officers involved in the crime to choose a lawyer for them in Italy to represent them in the case.
The newspaper added that Rome made it clear to Cairo that from now on, “there is nothing that can be negotiated because the matter is no longer in the hands of Conte or al-Sisi, but rather in the hands of the prosecutor in Rome.” The Italian prosecution is also determined to disclose the indictment against the Egyptian officers accused in the case. The prosecution accuses Egypt of having shown little cooperation and has not responded to the demands of providing information about the five defendants who are expected to be tried in absentia, especially since Italy and Egypt did not sign an extradition treaty. But the hideous details that will appear before the court will lead to global criticism of the Egyptian regime, which imprisoned about 60,000 political prisoners.
Regeni (born in 1988) was an Italian student who arrived in Egypt in September 2015 to collect information related to his research on obtaining a doctorate from Cambridge University in Britain, on “the role of independent trade unions after the revolution of 25 January 2011.” He began interviewing independent Egyptian labour activists and figures close to the opposition. However, he mysteriously disappeared on January 25, 2016, after leaving his residence in the Dokki neighborhood of Giza to meet a friend in Cairo’s downtown area. On February 3, 2016, Regeni’s body was found lying on the side of the Cairo / Alexandria desert road, with signs of torture and burns. Forensic reports concluded that he was killed as a result of severe torture that lasted for days. According to leaks from the Italian investigations, the forensic autopsy revealed that Regeni suffered a broken neck, hands and toes, due to torture, burns and bruises, and letters were engraved on his skin.
Egypt denied allegations of torture and attempted to force him to reveal his ties to the opposition, claiming instead that he was killed by a criminal gang and said it had killed all of them, a story that was ridiculed by Italian investigators. Egypt later retracted this story, which caused intense internal criticism. Returning to investigations by Italian prosecutors, investigators have used phone records and eyewitness accounts to link the five officials to the crime. The final investigations are scheduled to be completed on December 4, and here it is imperative, according to Italian law, for a judge to confirm the trial.
From a legal point of view, the trial of the accused begins after they are informed, but if it is proven to the judge that there is no Egyptian response in the case, the judge can decide that the absence of a response is a tactic, and then the trial begins. Bashar pointed out that the investigation created a headache for the Italian government, which maintains strong commercial relations with Egypt in the form of gas exploration contracts and sales of military frigates. However, criticism is growing of the al-Sisi regime and his arrest of human rights advocates after the defeat of his White House ally, Donald Trump. His case has gained significant momentum in Italy, Europe, and many countries of the world, as Rome and its allies call for the disclosure of the truth and the prosecution of those responsible.