Two generals, two colonels, a major, three captains, two officers — the fact that 10 members of the Egyptian security apparatus overseeing trade unions and illegal political organizations have been identified in the death of Giulio Regeni has still not put aside the el-Sisi regime’s narrative of “rotten apples” and “an isolated case.”
The revelations contained in a letter sent this week from the Roman prosecutor to Egyptian Attorney General Nabil Sadek once again dismantle the house of cards Cairo has erected since the discovery of Regeni’s tortured body on Feb. 3, 2016.
It’s a clever maneuver because, although patently bogus, the false narrative allows Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who claimed power in a coup, not to be sullied at the international level over his brutal practices of internal repression. Each day, the West legitimizes a regime that stifles the democratic and egalitarian aspirations of the Egyptian people.
Yet the Regeni case refutes that legitimacy — the foreigner’s terrible fate illuminates the same treatment of thousands of Egyptians. The letter of request from the team of Roman prosecutors is very clear: It asks for the testimonies of the 10 individuals who don’t answer to anyone but central intelligence in Cairo and who were involved in the disappearance, death and sequence of cover-ups.
“This office believes that Giulio Regeni was the subject of an investigation, for a short period of time, by officers of the Egyptian security apparatus,” the letter reads. “The latter, in reconstructing the investigations carried out, have reported, with much reluctance, facts that do not conform to the truth, whether it was related to the timing and manner of activities carried out in January 2016 or the March 24, 2016, search that led to the discovery of Giulio Regeni’s documents.”
They have lied and misdirected. The Roman prosecutors are doing something the Italian government doesn’t do: abandon the polite lexicon of diplomacy.
And the letter adds an important element: The torturers (“professionals,” as Regeni’s mother called them) used a location suitable for at least a week of torture and — if indeed they were “bad apples” — away from prying eyes. Together with the killing of five Egyptians, blamed by Cairo authorities in Regeni’s murder, the lone wolves theory is wholly inadequate.
That “shootout,” as the Egyptian police called it, in which five Egyptians were killed, is in the prosecutor’s crosshairs. They were innocent victims of cold-blooded executions, killed by shots to the head, their bodies placed in the seats of a minivan. For those deaths, the Cairo prosecutor’s office is investigating two cops. But it was obviously not the solitary action of two officers.
As the Roman investigators explain it, it was a colonel who planted Regeni’s documents in the home of one of those victims. The same colonel contacted the general and the captain of the department who registered a complaint from the head of the street vendors’ union, Mohamed Abdallah. Abdallah repeatedly said he was given a camera with which he filmed Regeni on Jan. 6.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry gave an interview to the Egyptian TV network DMC. He said Regeni’s death and Rome’s decision to recall the ambassador to Cairo “cast a shadow on bilateral ties.” He added: “We have demonstrated unprecedented transparency in our collaboration with the judicial authorities of our Italian counterpart. We agreed to be open in an exceptional way, given the historical nature of our ties with Italy.”
The openness and transparency is only visible to Shoukry, who, for his part, opted for identical measures against Rome. The Egyptian ambassador won’t take office in Italy until the Italian ambassador returns to Egypt, Tarek al-Kholi, secretary of the parliamentary commission on foreign affairs, told Agenzia Nova.
But the lies don’t bother the West. Italian institutions don’t speak about it. International ones rush to el-Sisi’s court. On Thursday, with a presidential decree, el-Sisi approved the establishment of a permanent diplomatic mission to NATO.
It’s not a true partnership, but it represents a much higher level of relations between Egypt and the alliance. Cairo will have a permanent representative office, as Israel and Russia do. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised the initiative, saying, “It will strengthen cooperation and partnership between NATO and Egypt.”
The measure (probably laid out in the last month as General Petr Pavel, head of NATO military command, visited the Egyptian army and Stoltenberg received Shoukry in Brussels) is part of a 20-year-old NATO initiative called the Mediterranean Dialogue, of which Egypt is a member along with Israel, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco.