Cairo and Rome give conflicting statements in Giulio Regeni case

Egypt’s public prosecutor has said the killer of the Italian student Giulio Regeni remains unknown as prosecutors in Italy prepare to close the case and move towards bringing at least five Egyptian security officials to trial in Rome.

Egyptian prosecutors said on Monday they would temporarily close their investigation into the murder of Regeni, whose body was found in a ditch on the side of a highway on the outskirts of Cairo in February 2016.

“The Egyptian public prosecution affirms that the perpetrator of the murder of the Italian student is still unknown,” they said, in what they described as a joint statement from both Egyptian and Italian prosecution teams.

Regeni’s parents, Paola and Claudio, and their lawyer Alessandra Ballerini, issued a joint statement in which they urged the Italian government to “acknowledge this outrage” by recalling its ambassador to Cairo.

The Egyptian announcement was also challenged by Italian prosecutors. “The Egyptian prosecutor has expressed reservations about the solidity of the evidence collected, which he believes are insufficient to support the accusation in court,” a statement said. “However, the public prosecutor of Egypt said he respects the decision that will be taken by the Rome’s public prosecution office.”

Regeni’s body was found with signs of torture, which observers say bore the hallmark of Egypt’s security services. Egyptian authorities have consistently rebuffed any suggestion of responsibility, offering a variety of other theories.

Italian prosecutors have previously named five security officers as suspects and said in October 2020 that they were about to conclude their investigation. An official announcement is expected later this week, even as Cairo continued stonewalling Italy’s efforts to investigate, according to the Italian side.

In their statement, Regeni’s parents and their lawyer wrote: “In these five years we are overcome with indignation by the countless injustices on the part of the Egyptian authorities. They kidnapped, tortured and murdered a son, they sullied his reputation and discredited him, they lied and cheated not only us, his parents, but all Italians.

“Today, Egyptian prosecutors have the gall to express ‘reservations’ toward our magistrates and investigators, and to consider the evidence presented thus far as ‘insufficient’. This is the ultimate lack of respect toward our magistrature and our collective intelligence.

“Prosecutors in both countries have never been so divided. We believe that our government must acknowledge this outrage and recall our ambassador. We must reclaim our dignity so that no country can vilify another’s citizen while remaining not only ‘friendly’, but also unpunished. We owe this to Giulio and to all other men and women like him, as we continue to fight for truth and justice.”

The media in Italy reported that investigators in Rome have collected multiple testimonies from witnesses, alleging that Regeni was picked up by members of the Egyptian security services.

The witnesses, who have deemed reliable by the prosecutors, say the 28-year-old Cambridge doctoral researcher was abducted by agents of the Egyptian National Security Agency on 25 January 2016 and taken to at least two different police stations in the subsequent hours.

Italian prosecutors informed their Egyptian counterparts about these witness statements at a meeting on 5 November.

Matteo Renzi, who was Italy’s prime minister at the time of the murder, told a parliamentary inquiry last week that his government was only informed of the abduction on 31 January 2016. “If we had known before we could have acted before,” he said.

Italy’s foreign ministry has dismissed his statements, saying: “Italian government institutions and our secret services were informed from the first hours following Giulio’s disappearance on 25 January 2016.”

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