The capture, disappearance, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni was not the work of a few “bad apples” within the Egyptian security forces. These actions have the mark of a state action: the state headed by coup leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The parents of the Italian researcher and their lawyer, Alessandra Ballerini, say so “without a doubt.” They have returned to the spotlight one year after the death for a press conference in the Italian Senate with the President of the Human Rights Commission Luigi Manconi and the spokesman of Amnesty International Italia Riccardo Noury.
“Thanks to the intelligence of Rome’s prosecutor and to the courage of our collaborators, and despite the many false leads and the lack of cooperation from the Egyptian authorities that still endures today, we have evidence,” Ballerini told the room. “We have the names and faces of many links in the chain, even if we don’t have them all: We do not know yet who the main instigators were nor who ordered it, and, above all, we do not know why.”
In order to get to the motive, a much stronger pressure needs to be applied on el-Sisi. For instance, Pope Francis can do it. He will travel to Cairo on the upcoming April 28 and 29: “We are confident that Pope Francis will not forget Giulio in this historic visit,” Regeni’s mother, Paola Regeni, said, “and will join in our specific request of truth so we can get some peace.”
Fourteen months have passed since the discovery of the body of the young researcher from Friuli, in northeastern Italy, and a year since Italy recalled its ambassador from Cairo, “the only sign of crisis in relations between the two countries.” In this year, no other diplomatic, economic or cultural initiatives were added in an effort to force the Egyptian regime to really cooperate. This is the only act that can be confirmed at this point, as claimed by the Regeni couple who Monday met with President Emeritus Giorgio Napolitano and received solidarity and comfort from him.
“We have been pressured from different quarters to support the return of the Italian ambassador to Egypt; nevertheless, trade has continued and is booming,” Claudio Regeni said. “We not only do not want the ambassador to go back to Cairo, but we hope that other countries will follow the Italian example.” Conversely, it would be “an unacceptable normalization of relations,” says Manconi, who announced the welcome news that the Italian government “does not intend to send to Egypt ambassador” Giampaolo Cantini, and “let the diplomatic crisis between the two countries continue,” as has happened since April 8, 2016.
“Giuliosiamonoi,” the collective account of 10,000 Twitter followers that supports the campaign, branded with Amnesty’s color yellow, is also demanding the truth. Not just “soap bubbles,” as Paola Regeni called the commitment just announced over her son’s death. Although the truth has now come to light, in the eyes of Rome’s prosecutor and the consultants who have been investigating on behalf of the family, the only missing item is the admission of guilt.
“Today we have the evidence, and we can say it with certainty,” said Ballerini, the family’s lawyer. “The same National Security officer who prepared and signed all the false accusations against Ahmed Abdallah [director of the Egyptian Commission for Human Rights and consultant to the Regeni family, who was jailed for 130 days starting April 25, 2016, on charges of terrorism] is directly involved in Giulio’s disappearance.”
Just like another National Security officer — “they are all high officers” — who “led the search of the home of one of the parents of the famous Gang of Five, where Regeni’s personal documents were found. Well,” says Ballerini, “now we know that this individual personally pulled from his pocket Giulio’s documents, and has contacts with senior officers involved in his disappearance. Moreover, we know, and it is painful, that in fear or out of plain cruelty, many Egyptian friends of Giulio chose to betray him, or to look the other way.”
“We have wondered whether we will show pictures of our son’s body, to show that he was not killed like the many Egyptians who disappear every day and are tortured and killed,” Paola Regeni said. ”Giulio died worse than an Egyptian.” When she announced her intention to show one photo, the tension was palpable in the room. Instead, she pulled out a picture of graffiti painted on the Berlin Wall; in Cairo, all graffiti have been erased. It was a sufficiently strong metaphor to describe the horror of a young man destroyed as “never seen before by experts in torture.”