Patience with Egypt is wearing thin, both in Italy and Egypt. Since the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi released its verdict on the death of Giulio Regeni on Thursday, comments have flooded social networks and online newspapers with incredulous questions.
Why would a criminal gang torture a foreigner for days just to rob him? Why are police refusing to respond to legitimate questions from the alternative press? Why would the murderers — characterized as specialists in defrauding and robbing foreigners — keep IDs, drugs and money for two months?
The independent online newspaper El Tahrir went a step further and listed the obvious contradictions in the government’s version. For instance, the photographs of the bodies of the four criminals, made public a few hours after police killed them, show the faces of people between 20-30 years old. Yet, in the Interior Ministry’s Facebook post Thursday night, they listed the slain suspects as 26, 40, 52 and 60. Who then, the paper asks, are the four dead people?
And why didn’t the police let the Italian investigators in Cairo know of their intention to carry out a raid on Regeni’s killers? Why slaughter them without even trying to arrest them? Of course, writes El Tahrir, by offering up culprits, el-Sisi’s government might liberate its own security services from two months of withering criticism and suspicion.
Ziad al-Emainy, a former left-wing member of parliament, posted a series of darkly sarcastic questions and answers on his Facebook page. ”Why did the gang keep the documents of the student it killed? Because it was known to collect souvenirs of its victims. Then why didn’t it keep souvenirs of previous victims? Because this hobby began precisely with Regeni. Why was he tortured? To confirm the PIN code on his credit card.”
Scrolling through the Egyptian media, the further you get from the el-Sisi government, the more critical the crowd. Masr Alarabiya said the brutal torture was typical of police and intelligence. Asharq Al-Awsat wondered why the Egyptian authorities have still refused to provide their Italian counterparts with tapped phone calls from the night of the kidnapping.
On social media, ordinary people are hurling insults at Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar and poking fun at his sad cover-up. If the sister of one of the criminals had truly been holding 15 grams of Regeni’s hashish and his 5,000 Egyptian pounds, wouldn’t she have smoked it and spent it a long time ago? Worst of all, critics point out, the government didn’t hesitate to gun down four people, executed without trial.
Similar comments rolled in from human rights activists. “Really interesting that a gang specializing in robberies tortured Regeni to death and then decided to keep his documents at home as a souvenir,” writes Wael Ghonim, an activist in Cairo. The well-known TV comedian Bassem Youssef spoke directly to the government: “You look like a child caught trying to hide his guilt with an incredible story. Low quality.”
Aside from the pro-government newspapers that published the government’s version without question, members of parliament have flocked to the media to defend Minister Ghaffar. “We reject the attempt to attribute this crime to the police, aimed only to incite the international community against Egypt,” said parliamentarian Mostafa Bakry.
Meanwhile, the investigation continues in cooperation with Italians investigators, said the Egyptian public prosecutor, who, to his credit, has repeatedly departed from the government’s narratives.
Over the weekend, four relatives of the alleged gang leader, Tarek Abdel Fattah, were arrested. His wife, sister and two brothers are accused of aiding and abetting for covering up a crime and hiding stolen goods. The evidence against them, according to Egyptian officials, are Regeni’s personal effects, found in the sister’s home.
But she and Abdel Fattah’s wife stated during questioning that the gang never killed Regeni, according to the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. The wife said the red bag had been delivered to her husband a few days prior to his death “from a friend.”
The famous red bag — in which investigators found Regeni’s identification documents, sunglasses, hashish, a women’s handbag, a cell phone and credit card — was not Regeni’s, according to his friends interviewed by El Tahrir. They said they’ve never seen the bag or the sunglasses, and the hashish couldn’t have been his, either: Regeni didn’t smoke.