Nine months ago, the Italian Embassy in Cairo was back in full service. Since then, every 14th of the month, we have been interrogating the institutions of our country: has the return of the ambassador to Egypt fostered the discovery of the truth about the kidnapping, forced disappearance, torture and killing of Giulio Regeni? And has it placed our country in a better position to intervene in the dramatic human rights situation in Egypt?
To answer this second question, the chronology of the events of the last five weeks is sufficient. On the night of May 10 and 11, Mohamed Lotfy, his wife Amal Fathy and their little son were taken to a police station. Lotfy and his son, who also have Swiss citizenship, were released hours later. Amal Fathy is still in prison. The call for their release is here.
It is always unpleasant to speak of an activist as “the wife of…” However, in this case, it is clear that Fathy is in prison to punish her husband, director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Liberties, an NGO repeatedly persecuted, along with its activists (including Ahmad Abdallah, imprisoned for 120 days in 2016) for providing legal assistance to the Regeni family.
On May 16, activist Shadi Ghazali, one of the leaders of the 2011 revolution, was arrested for “spreading false information.” Haitham Mohamadein, a revolutionary trade unionist, was arrested on May 22. The next day it was Wael Abbas’ turn. The blogger and journalist is famous for his complaints against police violence. On June 1, after 70 hearings, the court closed the trial against photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, arrested in August 2013 for taking photos during the massacre of Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Cairo, which killed more than 800 people. The sentence on June 30 could be the death penalty. On June 6, Waleed Salim al-Shobakky, a US researcher accused of “terrorism,” was sent to prison.
As for the first question, the answer is that the truth is no longer near. Unless we want to define “decisive steps forward” as the delivery of hundreds of randomly boxed pages apparently containing details of the Egyptian investigation since Feb. 3, 2016. Or the delivery, 28 months later, of the images (or what remains of them) taken by CCTV cameras of Regeni walking through the city on the evening of Jan. 25, the night he disappeared.
Meanwhile, Italian civil society is not giving up. Over the last month, more Italian municipalities have joined the “Truth for Giulio Regeni” campaign, and on June 22 Lucca and Capannori will also join, becoming the 254th and 255th, respectively. The number of people who have joined the relay fast promoted by Regeni’s family to urge the release of Amal Fathy has exceeded 1,000 people, and after a month there is no sign of stopping. Despite all these initiatives, almost no response has yet been received from the new government. In this regard, it is not clear the role of the Defense Ministry and its promotion of human rights.
From one government to another, the consideration of Egypt seems almost the same: an “unavoidable partner” (Alfano Dixit) or “a country too important for Italy not to have stable relations,” said Salvini. The hope is that a man of the university, the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a former law professor, will have a specific human regard for the horrible fate (not accidental, but the result of a state crime) of a man who had also made the university his home.
Meanwhile, important words came from the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Fico. We met on June 8 along with a delegation from Amnesty International Italy. Fico stressed that it is not the time for remembrance but the time for truth, and we need to pursue it at any cost. Encouraging words. He told us that, at least for some representatives of institutions (and here we are talking about the third office of the state), Regeni is still part of the national interest.
Riccardo Noury is a spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy.
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