The battered body of Giulio Regeni bears the signature of trained torturers, the prosecutor’s office in Rome said on Friday.
The pronouncement seems to confirm what human rights associations, trade unions and some local authorities in Egypt already suspected and would rule out the possibility the Italian doctoral student’s death was committed by common criminals. Prosecutors also said the murder was linked to Regeni’s research activities and dismissed the notion it was connected to the Italian or foreign intelligence services.
The full reports of the autopsy conducted by professor Vittorio Fineschi will be delivered to prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco next week, but obviously the picture is already clear enough to deny the continuous false leads coming from the government in Cairo. And some points can be made clear publicly, and must be — at this point it is an urgent matter.
First point: According to Italians investigators, those who inflicted “torture and cruelty” on Regeni until he died are people accustomed to torture others. They’ve also excluded — this is the second point — any potential link to trafficking and drug abuse. The toxicology analysis of his corpse revealed that Regeni did not use any drugs, as experts who performed an autopsy at Policlinico Umberto I, Italy’s second-largest public hospital, also confirmed to il manifesto.
The Carabinieri and police also ascertained that Regeni, a Cambridge University student and a visiting scholar at the American University in Cairo, led a quiet lifestyle and had a strong relationship with his girlfriend (which excludes, if it is ever necessary, Egyptian authorities’ suggestion it may have been a “crime of passion”).
The third point: Roman prosecutors said they were certain about only one thing, that his research activities were the motive of the murder. Regeni’s studies mainly focused on Egyptian independent trade unions and social movements developed after 2011.
Fourth point: The analysis of Regeni’s computer, handed over to prosecutors by the family, and the entire preliminary investigation revealed no links between Regeni and any intelligence service. He had had no contact with “dubious” people, and he had collected no information for purposes other than his research, which was also public. Those studies were the framework of his famous article, published posthumously by il manifesto, about the largest trade union meeting in recent years.
But — the fifth, and essential, point — is that Regeni did not have a rap sheet in Egypt, and he was not under their surveillance before the day of his disappearance, Jan. 25. That information was leaked by Italian investigators, but it’s unclear whether it came from the Giza prosecutor or from the Egyptian Interior Ministry. If this is true, it means Regeni was not targeted but rather swept up in the mass raids that marked the fifth anniversary of the Tahrir Square protests. Perhaps later, he was identified as a troublesome person, tortured and killed.
However, there is little evidence in the hands of the Italian special investigators who have been dispatched to Cairo. Regeni’s cell phone was never found. And Egyptian authorities have not provided his cell phone data. Roman prosecutors have already requested Regeni’s passwords to social networks, to attempt to partially reconstruct his movements through geolocation. The companies have not replied. And the Giza prosecutor has not responded to the request from Rome to view their investigative file, the Egyptian autopsy report and surveillance camera footage.
Faced with Egypt’s opacity in the case, it begs a question: How can you exclude that Regeni was not already under surveillance by Egyptian secret services?
Rome is growing increasingly impatient. On Friday, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Italian radio that prosecutors could no longer afford to wait for “the cooperation and willingness” that promised. “The problem is that this willingness should be more effective,” the minister added.
Gentiloni’s message was clear: “I vehemently deny that Italy can give up seeking justice. It is not a temporary claim that can fade when it ceases to attract attention. If it ever ceases. Because I think the Egyptian government should be aware that, on this matter, the international attention is not going to fade.”
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