Gi­ulio Re­geni: lawyer adds 20 more sus­pects in Egypt mur­der case

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Lorenzo Tondo in Pa­lermo and Ruth Michael­son in Cairo

The lawyer for the fam­ily of Gi­ulio Re­geni, the Ital­ian doc­toral stu­dent mur­dered in Egypt in 2016, said she has a list of 20 ad­di­tional sus­pects, which she called “20 names of men who should start be­ing afraid”.

At a press con­fer­ence in Rome on Wed­nes­day, Alessan­dra Bal­lerini said: “I find hard to be­lieve that the Egyp­tian pres­i­dent, Ab­del Fatah al-Sisi, was not aware of what was go­ing on to Gi­ulio Re­geni. It’s im­pos­si­ble he didn’t know any­thing about this.” She said the list was com­piled over the course of her al­most three-year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion with a le­gal team in Egypt.

Re­geni dis­ap­peared on 25 Jan­uary 2016, and his body was found on an out­ly­ing Cairo desert road on 4 Fe­bru­ary that year bear­ing signs of ex­treme tor­ture. The desert high­way his corpse was found on joins Egypt’s cap­i­tal with Alexan­dria, and passes close to a build­ing used as a de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity by Egypt’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency (NSA).

His par­ents, Paola and Clau­dio Re­geni, told the press con­fer­ence: “We are not giv­ing up. Egypt must know that we are not go­ing to give up. Egypt is jeop­ar­dis­ing its re­la­tion­ship with Italy be­cause in Egypt an Ital­ian stu­dent has been kid­napped, tor­tured and killed – [as] said by the pres­i­dent of the Ital­ian cham­ber of deputies, Roberto Fico – and we will con­tinue to put at risk our re­la­tion­ship with Egypt till we fi­nally un­cover the truth.’’

Ear­lier this week Ro­man pros­e­cu­tors for­mally placed un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion five mem­bers of Egypt’s NSA as sus­pects in the al­leged mur­der of the Ital­ian re­searcher. They were the first Egyp­tians to be named by the Ital­ians in con­nec­tion with the case af­ter al­most three years.

The Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties for­mally opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Maj Gen Sabir Tareq, Maj Sherif Magdy Ab­del Aal, Col Acer Ka­mal and Col He­sham Helmy of the NSA, as well as of­fi­cer Mah­moud Na­jem. The five are be­lieved to have par­tic­i­pated in Re­geni’s dis­ap­pear­ance, ac­cord­ing to Rome’s deputy chief pros­e­cu­tor, Ser­gio Co­laiocco. They are all sus­pected of kid­nap­ping the Ital­ian stu­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to As­so­ci­ated Press, Tareq was a high-rank­ing NSA of­fi­cer at the time of Re­geni’s ab­duc­tion and mur­der, and has since re­tired. Helmy over­saw the Giza neigh­bour­hood of Dokki, where Re­geni lived, while Ka­mal headed a de­part­ment fo­cus­ing on street-level dis­ci­pline. Aal was the head of a team that had Re­geni un­der sur­veil­lance be­fore his dis­ap­pear­ance.

“At least one of the of­fi­cials has been re­as­signed to a re­mote prov­ince,” it added.

The NSA is Egypt’s pri­mary do­mes­tic in­tel­li­gence body, a cor­ner­stone of the po­lice state un­der both Sisi and in its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion as the State Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions Ser­vice un­der the au­to­cratic for­mer pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak.

Italy’s ac­cu­sa­tion about the NSA’s in­volve­ment in Re­geni’s mur­der gives some in­di­ca­tion as to why an aca­demic spe­cial­is­ing in the po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive sub­ject of unions was a tar­get. “Since March 2015, the NSA has ap­peared to be the lead agency re­spon­si­ble for ar­rest­ing, de­tain­ing and build­ing crim­i­nal cases against po­lit­i­cal sus­pects, hold­ing many in in­com­mu­ni­cado de­ten­tion and sub­ject­ing them to en­forced dis­ap­pear­ance and tor­ture,” said Amnesty In­ter­na­tional in a 2015 re­port.

Egypt re­jected Ital­ian ef­forts to name NSA agents as sus­pects in the Re­geni case ear­lier this week. “Egyp­tian law does not recog­nise what is called ‘the record of sus­pects’,” said the coun­try’s State In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice, cit­ing an anony­mous mem­ber of the ju­di­ciary. Egypt’s min­istry of for­eign af­fairs has not re­sponded to re­peated re­quests for com­ment on the is­sue by the Guardian.

Italy’s par­lia­ment pre­vi­ously sus­pended re­la­tions with Egypt af­ter ini­tial re­ports of the list of sus­pects. But at Edex, Egypt’s first in­ter­na­tional de­fence ex­hi­bi­tion, which show­cased mil­i­tary hard­ware and weapons from around the world, lit­tle of this ten­sion was on dis­play. “If we have per­mis­sion to ex­port guns here, it means things re­main the same,” said Jarno An­tonelli of Beretta, which sup­plies pis­tols to the Egyp­tian mil­i­tary and po­lice.

“We have been wait­ing three years,” said the min­is­ter of the in­te­rior, Mat­teo Salvini. “I want to main­tain good re­la­tions with Egypt and I will do ev­ery­thing to have good eco­nomic, cul­tural, com­mer­cial and so­cial re­la­tions with a friendly coun­try, but as an Ital­ian I ex­pect [from Egypt] names and sur­names.”

Pho­to­graph: Alessan­dro Bianchi/ Reuters

Com­mem­o­ra­tion of Gi­ulio Re­geni in Jan­uary 2017, who was found dead on a Cairo high­way the year be­fore.

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