Murder of Giulio Regeni: four Egyptian officers before an Italian trial
Italy hopes the trial will shed light on a murder that shocked the country and strained ties with Egypt, which has repeatedly denied 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 objective in our relations with Egypt,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the case last month. .
“Achieving a definitive picture, in 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 he believed in.”
A postgraduate student at the British University of Cambridge, Regeni disappeared in the Egyptian capital in January 2016. His body was found almost a week later and an autopsy showed he had been extensively tortured before his death. .
Italian and Egyptian prosecutors jointly investigated the case, but the two sides later fell out and came to very different conclusions.
Italian prosecutors said Major Magdi Sharif, Egyptian General Intelligence, Major General Tarek Sabir, the former head of state security, Police Colonel Hisham Helmy and Colonel Ather Kamal, a former chief of investigations in the city of Cairo, were responsible for the “aggravated kidnapping” of Regeni.
Sharif was also charged with “conspiracy to commit aggravated murder”.
The suspects have never publicly responded to the charges, and Egyptian police and officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in Regeni’s disappearance and murder.
Regeni’s parents were among the first to arrive at the trial, which is taking place in a high-security prison in Rome.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office has said the government will take civil action in the case, saying it considers itself an aggrieved party.
Court-appointed defense attorneys said the trial should not take place because it is unclear whether one of the suspects is aware of the proceedings.
A judge dismissed their objection at a preliminary hearing in May, saying news of the investigation would have reached them anyway. However, the trial judge could on Thursday decide otherwise and demand that a new effort be made to contact them.
Regeni had traveled to Cairo to research Egyptian independent trade unions for his doctoral thesis. Associates say he was also interested in the long-standing domination of the Egyptian economy by the state and the military. Both subjects are sensitive in Egypt.
Prosecutors say they have evidence showing that Sharif followed Regeni to informants and eventually had him arrested at a Cairo metro station. The indictment says Sharif and other unidentified Egyptian officials then tortured Regeni for several days, causing him “severe physical suffering.”
Egyptian authorities initially said Regeni died in a traffic accident. They later said he was kidnapped by gangsters who were later captured and killed by police.
It is not known how long the trial will last. The government has said it will seek to extradite anyone convicted in the case.