“Stefano Cucchi was a victim of torture, like Giulio Regeni.” The words with which General Prosecutor Rubolino asked Wednesday to void the acquittal of five doctors from Pertini Hospital open a gash in the ironclad veil of Italian hypocrisy.
And not only that: If the government seems to have given up on the search for the truth of the Italian researcher’s death, now the University of Cambridge, with whom Regeni was researching Egyptian unions, seems to hinder the already torturous work of the Italian judiciary. That research, they say, “is confidential.” This “no comment” statement is difficult to digest. It is the British university’s response to the international warrant issued by the Roman prosecutor, who is investigating Regeni’s disappearance and murder.
It’s also a slap in the face for the Regeni family, which had repeatedly asked Cambridge for support. “We had entrusted to the community of Cambridge University our son Giulio with faith and sacrifice,” Paola and Claudio Regeni said in a statement forwarded on the internet by Senator Manconi, president of the Human Rights Commission. “And we expected maximum and concrete solidarity from this academic community, as well as their full cooperation in seeking the truth about the circumstances of his abduction and his heinous murder, which took place in Cairo while carrying out research for the university.”
But in Cambridge mouths are sewn shut: They hide behind an internal rule that forbids the revelation of information about research and educational activities. This is the technicality behind which Maha Abdelrahman hid Wednesday. She’s the Egyptian professor who followed Regeni’s activity step by step during his research in Egypt, and met him in December in Cairo, shortly after the meeting in which he noticed he was photographed.
“I will not provide any statements to the Italian authorities,” she told the investigators who flew to Great Britain. Yet only a few days ago, she attended the memorial in Cambridge, which was also attended by Regeni’s parents. Also silent is David Runciman, the one responsible for Regeni’s project, who inexplicably has boycotted the only institution — the Italian judiciary — still trying to find out why, how and by whose hand the young man lost his life.
The warrant had been submitted with the intention of finding new evidence about the environment in which Regeni worked after Cairo’s leaders put up a brick wall. In particular, Italian investigators are interested in the methodology known as Participatory Action Research, or PAR, a technique provides direct entry into the reality under study. That is what Regeni was doing in Cairo when he participated in union meetings and talked with them, thus ending up in the viewfinder of the constricting and pervasive system of government control over civil society (a system that Abdelrahman, as an opponent of the regime, knows well).
Certainly, investigations in Britain have provided confirmation that Regeni was not a spy or a member of the secret service, a charge repeatedly put forth by media aligned with the Cairo regime. In his bank account were only a few thousand euro.
Meanwhile, Italian investigators continue to review a second batch of documents provided by the Cairo attorney general. These include a partial analysis of cell phones used in areas near where Regeni died on Jan. 25 and where he was found on Feb. 3.
Doubts remain, despite renewed collaboration with Egyptian authorities. There are discrepancies between police statements in the translated files sent over from Cairo. Specifically, their accounts of documents discovered in the home of Tareq Abdel Fattah are questionable. Fattah is a member of an alleged criminal gang, whose principal members were killed by police in a shootout. Cairene police say these were the people who killed Regeni.
And on Wednesday, the Nadeem Center, the NGO that treats victims of torture, released new statistics on extrajudicial killings in Egypt: In the first five months of 2016, there have already been 754.
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