Three months have passed since preliminary hearing judge Roberto Ranazzi gave 90 days for the Italian government to get answers from Egypt, and for the carabinieri of the Special Operations Group (ROS) to investigate using databases, confidential sources and social media.
Their common objective was to identify the residences of the four members of the Egyptian secret services suspected of the kidnapping, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni, who disappeared in Cairo on January 25, 2016 and was found dead on February 3.
The three months were not enough. As a result, on Tuesday, the latest preliminary hearing before the judge ended with another postponement.
The next court date was set for October 10, allowing six months to manage to inform General Sabir Tariq, Colonels Usham Helmi and Athar Kamel and Major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif that the Italian authorities intend to charge them with kidnapping with multiple aggravating circumstances, aggravated assault and aggravated conspiracy to commit murder.
Trial proceedings against them had already been initiated last year, but on October 14, 2021, the Third Court of Assizes canceled them, on the grounds that it was impossible to verify that the accused were actually aware of the proceedings.
The Egyptian regime has never responded to the letter rogatory sent by the Rome Prosecutor’s Office three years ago (to the day). Nor does it seem to be willing to do so, as the Italian Ministry of Justice admitted on Tuesday, without mincing words.
The admission that Cairo was completely unresponsive to the pressures from Rome – in a note received by the preliminary trial judge, the Ministry of Justice said that there was “a refusal to cooperate in the notification of the court papers” on the part of the Egyptians, and that they had conveyed the message that “for us the case is closed” – led Judge Ranazzi to further postpone the trial of the four agents and to order further investigations, once again entrusted to the ROS.
The straight-up “no” from the Egyptians came after they brazenly ignored the request made on January 20 for a meeting between Justice Minister Marta Cartabia and her Egyptian counterpart, Omar Marwan, “in order to discuss the necessary steps to remove the obstacles to the completion of criminal proceedings.”
This time, the reaction of the family of the Italian researcher was no longer hopeful, as it had been on January 10, after the previous court date. Back then, Alessandra Ballerini, the lawyer representing Paola Deffendi and Claudio Regeni, had expressed satisfaction with the ruling: “Our fight can continue.”
On Tuesday, however, at the end of the hearing, their anger at the constant impediments made itself heard: “We are bitter and indignant at the response of the prosecutor of the al-Sisi regime, which continues to make a mockery of our institutions and our legal system,” said Ballerini. “We ask that Prime Minister Draghi should demand, without ifs and buts, that the four defendants choose their domicile. Today was yet another mockery.”
Shortly before, the courthouse was the scene of a sit-in, at the center of which the parents held up the yellow banner calling for “Truth for Giulio Regeni.”
Together with them was Beppe Giulietti, president of FNSI and a faithful member of that part of the media that has kept the spotlight on the story and on the civil struggle of the family: “We will call for an interruption of relations with Egypt if the policy of omission and elimination of evidence continues.”
His comment hits the nail on the head: it’s not clear what pressures the Italian government is putting on the country. Diplomatic, commercial and economic relations have never been affected, ensuring that the regime run by former General al-Sisi has maintained their sense of impunity in order to continue as if nothing had happened.
Not only in its silence about Regeni, but also as regards internal repression: while the judge was delivering his ruling on Tuesday, in Cairo, the family of Ayman Muhammad Ali Hadhoud, Egyptian economist and member of the liberal Reform and Development party, were speaking out publicly about his death in prison. He had disappeared on February 5.
The family was notified of his death only on Saturday, without any details given. In February, officials claimed he had been hospitalized for schizophrenia at the Abbaseya psychiatric hospital, although Ayman had no history of that illness.
When they asked to visit him, the prosecutor responded that there was no record of his arrest. Other officers mentioned he had been detained for the attempted theft of a car. Until, finally, news of his death arrived, with the discovery that the prosecutor’s office had ordered his burial as an “unidentified body.”
There was also some (possibly good) news in the case of Egypt’s best-known activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was sentenced in December to another five years in prison. He has obtained British citizenship through his mother, the London-born mathematician Laila Soueif. Now his family hopes that his British passport could become a key element to get him out of prison.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.