It will take some time, probably weeks, before the Constitutional Court will rule – whether in a public hearing or in closed session – on the constitutionality of Article 420-bis of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The issue was raised by the Rome Prosecutor’s Office in the context of the Regeni trial: on Wednesday, the preliminary hearing judge in Rome, Roberto Ranazzi, ordered to send the trial documents for the trial on the kidnapping, torture, and murder of the young Italian researcher to the Constitutional Court.
The decision comes after the request made by the Rome Prosecutor’s Office during the previous hearing held on April 3: namely, to submit to the Constitutional Court the question of the constitutionality of the law regulating trials in absentia. The prosecutors’ hope is that the outcome will be an amendment to Article 420-bis of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The reason for the request lies in the cause of the current stalemate: the four Egyptian agents (General Sabir Tariq, Colonels Usham Helmi and Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim and Major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif) suspected of kidnapping, torturing and killing Regeni cannot be prosecuted because Cairo has never communicated their addresses, which are necessary to notify them of the ongoing proceedings.
The Rome Prosecutor’s Office, through prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi and deputy prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco, deems Article 420-bis of the Code of Criminal Procedure to be “deficient due to lacking a provision that would allow for the protection of the interests of the parties involved even in the face of a failure by their state of nationality or residence to comply with the international obligation of judicial cooperation.” That is, according to the prosecutors, the current law is unconstitutional because it does not provide for the possibility of conducting a trial in absentia when a foreign state prevents one of its nationals accused in a trial in Italy from being notified of it.
The goal, therefore, would be to obtain a “revision ruling,” a pronouncement by which the Constitutional Court doesn’t declare the entire rule unconstitutional, but revises it to make up for the particular shortcoming and at the same time to prevent the regulatory vacuum that would result if the entire article were to be struck down.
On Wednesday, the preliminary hearing judge granted the request by the prosecutors: “It appears unreasonable and disproportionate to make it impossible to proceed in absentia when there is no cooperation by the foreign state of nationality or residence, because, while it is sufficient for the defendants to be aware that there are proceedings against them in Italy for the murder of Giulio Regeni in order to evade the trial, the preliminary hearing judge needs to prove their awareness and intention to evade not just the proceedings, but the trial itself, and thus to prove that the defendants, who are evading the criminal proceedings, are also aware of the charges and the judicial summons.”
The judge also cited the Cairo-ratified Convention on Torture, accusing the Egyptian authorities of “not allowing the ordinary course of judicial activity by the victim’s state of citizenship.” Even more: this activity “has been blatantly opposed” by the Egyptian regime, which has thus created “an inadmissible ‘free zone’ of impunity for Egyptian citizens and state employees against Italian citizens.”
The ruling was celebrated in Piazzale Clodio, next to the Rome Prosecutor’s Office, the now-customary gathering place of those who are publicly advocating for justice for Giulio. “There is one more hope. We hope that there will be a ruling that this trial can and must take place,” said Alessandra Ballerini, legal counsel for Giulio Regeni’s parents, Paola and Claudio. “Another step towards the truth,” tweeted Vittorio Di Trapani, president of the National Federation of the Italian Press, a constant presence at the Rome sit-ins.
“In the face of the Egyptian regime’s shameful stonewalling, the involvement of the Constitutional Court can be a further step to take,” said Sinistra Italiana national secretary Nicola Fratoianni.
Military shopping: Al-Sisi climbs the rankings
The new report by Global FirePower, a think tank that specializes in analyzing the military power of different countries around the world, confirms what was already known: Egypt, run by the coup-installed former general Al-Sisi, has built up an enormous military machine. It now has the 14th largest military in the global rankings, number one in the Arab world; and it keeps climbing higher. Some examples: with 13 war frigates, it is in fifth place out of 145 countries surveyed (we would be loath to not recall here the sale of two Italian Fremm frigates); with 440,000 personnel, it is 10th in the number of active military personnel (plus 480,000 reservists); it ranks fifth in the number of tanks (more than 4,600) and eighth in the number of jets (more than 1,000). And it keeps buying weapons – and Europe keeps selling them.
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