Five years after student Giulio Regeni’s mutilated body was found in a ditch near Cairo in February 2016, four senior members of Egypt’s security services will in absentia stand trial in an Italian court on Thursday over their suspected role in Regeni’s disappearance, torture and murder.
The 28-year-old postgraduate student at Britain’s Cambridge University was abducted on 25 January 2016 while carrying out research for his PhD at Cambridge on Egypt’s independent trade unions.
A week later his body was discovered on the road to Alexandria and a post-mortem examination conducted showed he had been extensively tortured before his death.
A postgraduate student at Britain’s Cambridge University, Regeni disappeared in the Egyptian capital in January 2016. His body was found almost a week later and a post-mortem examination showed he had been extensively tortured before his death.
Italian prosecutors concluded that the Egyptian national security agency was behind the murder. The Egyptian authorities reject the Italian allegations.
They said Regeni had been under surveillance for weeks and reported as a spy by a Cairo street trade unionist. Before he died he was kicked, punched, cut, burned with red-hot objects and beaten with sticks, Rome prosecutors said.
The four defendants – Gen Tariq Sabir, Col Usham Helmi, Col Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim and Maj Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif – all deny kidnapping Regeni. Maj Sharif rejects a further allegation of conspiring to inflict aggravated injuries and murder.
Italy hopes the trial will shed light on a killing that shocked the country and strained ties with Egypt, which has repeatedly denied that its officials had anything to do with Regeni’s brutal death.
“The search for the truth has always been, and will continue to be, a fundamental goal in our relations with Egypt,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the case last month.
“Achieving a definitive picture, in the framework of a fair trial, will not bring Giulio back to his parents, but it will reaffirm the strength of justice, transparency and the rule of law in which he believed.”
Parents of the murdered student, Claudio Regeni and Paola Deffendi, have accused the Italian government of betrayal, by returning to business as normal with Egypt and selling two frigates as part of a large arms deal.
The government has said it will seek to extradict anyone convicted in the case.
Meanwhile, political opponents continue to disappear. In a report last year Egypt’s Commission for Rights and Freedoms said it had documented more than 2,700 enforced disappearances since 2015.