Regeni murder: Egyptians go on trial for Italian student s murder

Regeni murder: Egyptians go on trial for Italian student s murder
When Giulio Regeni s mutilated body was found in a ditch near Cairo in February 2016, it was so badly disfigured that his mother struggled to identify him.

Five years on, four members of Egypt s security forces go on trial in absentia on Thursday, accused of kidnapping the student, torturing him and killing him.

The Egyptian authorities reject the Italian allegations.

Regeni s parents will attend the trial in Rome, trying to find out what led to his death.

The 28-year-old student was abducted on 25 January 2016 while carrying out research for his PhD at Cambridge on Egypt s independent trade unions. A week later his body was discovered on the road to Alexandria.

Egyptian authorities constantly hindered the Italian prosecution, inventing wild stories behind the murder: a failed drug deal, a botched robbery, even a gay crime of passion.

But Italian prosecutors concluded that the Egyptian national security agency was behind the murder.

They said Regeni had been under surveillance for weeks and reported as a spy by a Cairo street trade unionist. Before he died he was kicked, punched, cut, burned with red-hot objects and beaten with sticks, Rome prosecutors said.

The four defendants - Gen Tariq Sabir, Col Usham Helmi, Col Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim and Maj Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif - all deny kidnapping Regeni. Maj Sharif rejects a further allegation of conspiring to inflict aggravated injuries and murder.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Giulio Regeni s parents, Claudio and Paola, hope to learn the truth from the Rome trial

The murder sparked widespread outrage and a crisis in relations between Italy and Egypt, with the Italian ambassador recalled.

Since then Egypt has dropped its own investigation, with top prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi citing "insufficient evidence". Although Egyptian authorities admitted Regeni had been monitored and betrayed by people he had met, they refused to provide Italy with the defendants home details.

Italy s ambassador is back in Cairo and President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi s government appears to have faced no blowback at all.

The murdered student s parents, Claudio Regeni and Paola Deffendi, have accused the Italian government of betrayal, by returning to business as normal with Egypt and selling two frigates as part of a large arms deal.

Meanwhile, political opponents continue to disappear. In a report last year Egypt s Commission for Rights and Freedoms said it had documented more than 2,700 enforced disappearances since 2015.

Alessandra Ballerini, the lawyer acting for the murdered student s parents said earlier this year that all of Giulio Regeni s human rights had been violated. Now that a trial was going ahead, they had the "well-founded hope that at least the right to truth will not be violated".
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