Italian student from ROME
moved to Cairo in September 2015 to study independent unions in Egypt for his doctorate at the University of Cambridge. Months later, a 28-year-old boy was found dead on the side of the road with cigarette burns, broken teeth and bones.
Last week, Italian prosecutors indicted four members of the Egyptian security forces in connection with the abduction, torture and death of Mr Regeni, presenting the most detailed case to date against the Egyptian President’s government.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,
for which it has become a source of great international shame.
This was the first full judicial inquiry into the alleged use of secret prisons by Egyptian security forces, an abuse which, according to human rights groups, has affected thousands of Egyptians. According to human rights organisations, Egyptian police and security officers are rarely accused of torture or death in custody, creating a climate of impunity.
This will be a test for this machine that commits disappearances and torture and focuses on its operation, according to Mohammed Lotfi, director of the Egyptian Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, a human rights non-governmental group representing the Regeni family in Egypt. You didn’t invent a new car for Giulio. They used the tools and methods they applied to so many Egyptians, Lotfi said.
What emerges from testimonies, telephone recordings and other evidence is a story of betrayal, deceit and cruelty, and offers a rare perspective on the work of Egypt’s vast security state. This report on the fate of Mr Regheny is based on interviews, prosecutor’s statements and court documents.
Shortly after his arrival in Cairo, Mr Regheny drew the attention of the Egyptian security forces to him. The authorities closely monitored the activities of the independent trade unions, which were one of the driving forces behind the massive protests that led to the overthrow of the former Egyptian President,
Dr. Regeni was in Egypt to do research for his dissertation.
One of Mr Regeni’s most important investigators, Mohammed Abdullah, the leader of the travelling salesmen’s union, told the secret service about the young Italian. Mr Abdullah has regularly informed Mr Regheny of his contacts with the Egyptian National Security Service, Major Majdi Ibrahim Abdel Sharif, appointed by the Italian prosecutors to lead the Egyptian operation against Mr Regheny.
The NSA suspects that, according to an Italian investigation, Mr Regeni was trying to spread social unrest with the help of trade unions, especially after Mr Abdullah explained to the NSA that the Italian had offered to help his trade union to apply for a £10,000, or $13,000, grant from a British NGO.
On the 7th. In January 2016, Mr Abdullah filmed Mr Regeni with a hidden camera while discussing a possible grant application, which never took place. The video was then broadcast on Egyptian state television, which described it as evidence of Mr. Regeni’s subversive activities.
We think this is a trigger, said Sergio Colaocco, the Italian prosecutor who led the investigation. They thought he was trying to finance the revolution.
According to Italian officials, the security services have hired two other people to inform Mr Regeni: his partner, a lawyer named Mohammed Al-Saed, and an Egyptian friend of Mr Regeni’s at Cambridge University.
Mr Abdullah and Mr Said could not be contacted for comments.
Mr. Regeni disappeared on the 25th. January 2016. It was the anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising. The streets of Cairo are teeming with security forces. Not many civilians dared to do it.
That evening, Mr. Regeni spontaneously decided to meet an Italian friend near Tahrir Square and visit the Egyptian professor on the occasion of his joint birthday. At 7:41, Mr. Regeni sent…
a message to his girlfriend in Ukraine: Go to the professor with Gennaro. I hope yoga goes well. Let me know when you get home 🙂 That was the last time anyone close to Mr. Regeni heard from him.
Shortly before 8 p.m. he was abducted from a local subway station and taken to a nearby police station. He was blindfolded and taken across the Nile to the office of the NSA on the territory of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior.
Mr. Regeni’s funeral took place in February 2016 in Fiumicello, Northern Italy.
Paolo Giovannini/Presse Associée
He was tortured for several days in room 13 of a four-storey villa – a room normally reserved for the interrogation of foreigners – according to a witness, a 15-year-old NSA veteran.
The room was equipped with metal chains that were used to tie people up. The upper half of his body was naked and showed signs of torture. He spoke his language, he was delirious, a former NSA official told Italian investigators, according to the transcript of his testimony. He was very, very skinny. He was handcuffed to the floor.
A few hours after Mr Regeni’s disappearance, the Italian Embassy was informed of his disappearance. Five days later, on the 30th. In January, his parents flew to Cairo in a desperate attempt to find him. Mr. Regeni was alive then. The Egyptian government has made no official statement on the disappearances. At the time, the NSA strongly denied that, according to Italian officials, the Egyptian security forces were in any way involved in the disappearance of Mr Regeni.
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An NSA witness testified that Mr. Regeni died in police custody. The cause of death was a severe blow to the neck of Mr. Regeni 24 hours before or after the evening of the first day of the meeting. February, according to an autopsy conducted in Italy. His body was found in 3. February found behind a wall on the edge of a dusty highway in the suburbs of Cairo.
In the months that followed, the Egyptian authorities provided various explanations for Mr Regeni’s death and explained to the Italian authorities that he may have died in a car accident or after taking part in a sex party.
In March 2016, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior reported that security forces had killed five men from a criminal gang in a shooting and found Mr Regeni’s passport and mobile phones. The Italian authorities, Mr Regeni’s family and human rights groups have dismissed the story as a cover for the murder.
Egyptian prosecutors agreed and said the gang had nothing to do with Mr. Regeni’s death, but changed course at the end of 2020 and said they suspected the gang of being involved. No one in Egypt has been accused of the murder of Mr. Regeni.
Initially, the Egyptian judicial authorities shared some evidence with Italian investigators, such as telephone recordings and written witness statements. But they also withheld important evidence, such as video footage taken outside the metro station when Mr Regeni disappeared, according to the Italian prosecutors. They also refused to provide information on 13 other potential suspects. According to information provided by Italian officials, the Egyptian authorities completely suspended cooperation at the end of 2018.
In February 2016, in memory of Mr Regeni, the mourners lit candles and laid wreaths for the Italian Embassy in Cairo.
Amr Nabil/Presse Associée
The Italian investigators were able to independently gather important evidence, including the testimony of five key witnesses. They didn’t reveal how or where they found these witnesses.
This month, Italian prosecutors have charged Major Sharif with kidnapping, murder and grievous bodily harm in the National Security Service. According to a witness interviewed by Italian prosecutors, Commander Sharif boasted in an interview with a Kenyan colleague about an operation against Mr Regeni in 2017.
Major Sharif stated that the Italian could have been CIA or Mossad, according to the transcript of his statement. The major said he heard on the phone that he was going to a party near Tahrir Square and that they had arrested him earlier, the witness said. Major Sharif stated that he personally beat Mr. Regeni, according to a witness.
The main accused of involvement in the assassination of Mr Regeni is NSA Major-General Tariq Ali Sabir, who, according to those familiar with the case, continues to play a central role in the suppression of dissent in the Egyptian State. General Sabir, known for decades for his role in overseeing political and public groups, was recently involved in the arrest of three prominent Egyptian human rights activists, one of them said.
Mr Sabir did not respond to requests for comments. The Egyptian government spokesperson also did not respond to the request for comments on the accusations.
The four accused Egyptian officials are expected to be tried in absentia in Rome from this spring. If found guilty, Italy may request extradition. But it is unlikely that Egypt will provide them.
The Prosecutor of Rome, Michele Pretipino, said that the efforts of Italian investigators to uncover the truth were still worthwhile. We have sworn to do everything in our power to gather evidence that shows that we are fully responsible for what happened, he said. We owe it to Giulio Reggie.
Human rights defenders hope that the trial will help reveal how abductions, torture and extrajudicial executions spread during the reign of Mr. Sisi, a former military leader who overthrew his elected predecessor in 2013.
What’s new here is the scale, according to Amr Magdi, an Egyptian researcher at Human Rights Watch. What is happening now is that any prisoner can be seriously tortured, even an Italian citizen who has done nothing but theoretical work in this area.
Write to Margherita Stankati at [email protected] and Jared Malcin at [email protected]
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