An Italian public prosecutor urged a Rome court on Thursday, October 14, 2021, to proceed with the trial in absentia of four senior Egyptian security officers over the disappearance and murder of graduate student Giulio Regeni in Cairo.
While the defense lawyers, who were appointed by the court to the four officers, said that no one has been able to reach them in Egypt, which means that they do not know that they are being charged, which renders the proceedings void.
obstruction of investigations
However, prosecutor Sergio Colaiko said, in a speech opening the trial, that the Egyptian authorities obstructed the investigation and prevented Italy from contacting the suspects. He added that the four officers should be tried in absentia, because it is impossible that they did not know the case.
“Italy’s right to a trial for a very serious crime that occurred abroad and involves an Italian national is at stake,” Colaico said. The judge is expected to issue his ruling in the case later in the day.
On the other hand, Regeni, who was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, disappeared in the Egyptian capital in January 2016. His body was found about a week later, and an autopsy showed that he had been severely beaten before his death.
While Italian and Egyptian prosecutors investigated the case together, the two sides differed and reached very different results.
Italian prosecutors also say that Major Sherif Magdy of the Egyptian General Intelligence, Major General Tarek Saber, the former head of the National Security Agency, Police Colonel Hisham Helmy, and Colonel Aser Kamal, the former head of Cairo’s escorts investigations, are responsible for the kidnapping of Regeni. They said Sharif was also charged with “conspiracy to commit murder with an aggravating factor.”
On the other hand, the suspects did not publicly respond to the accusations, and the police and officials in Egypt have repeatedly denied any involvement in Regeni’s disappearance and murder.
Inform the suspects
For his part, Prosecutor Colaiko presented 13 points before the court, which he said showed how Egypt first tried to undermine the investigation and then saw it as preventing the suspects from being informed of charges.
He said Egyptian investigators had slowed down on the case, ignoring 39 out of 64 separate requests for information. He added that the materials handed over were mostly useless, such as a video clip from the metro station where Regeni had disappeared, empty during the 20 minutes he spent there.
And he added: “There is a complete recording of the day before and the day after. Of course, that may be purely a coincidence.” He added that Italy tried, on about 30 occasions, through diplomatic and governmental channels, to obtain the addresses of suspects, as then-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte informed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that the lack of cooperation negatively affected bilateral relations.
As Colaiko said, “I don’t think it was humanly possible to do more than that[to find the four suspects].”
It is noteworthy that Regeni was conducting a research on independent trade unions in Egypt for his PhD thesis. People close to him say that he was also interested in discussing the hegemony of the state and the army over the Egyptian economy. The two topics are particularly sensitive, in Egypt.
The Egyptian police also said at first that Regeni had died in a road accident, before saying later that a gang had kidnapped him and that the police arrested his members later and killed them.
While Egyptian prosecutors said last November that the person who killed Regeni is still unknown, but they closed the case temporarily.