Egypt “must and can” do more in collaborating over the case of Giulio Regeni, an Italian researcher who was murdered in Cairo in 2016, Italy’s prime minister says.
“We want to see clear signs of collaboration from Egypt,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday, in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
His comments came after Italian prosecutors concluded a four-year investigation last week, saying there was “unequivocal” proof of the role four members of Egypt’s national security forces played in the killing of the 28-year-old.
Regeni, a Cambridge University student, had been researching union activities among Egyptian street vendors for his doctoral thesis.
He disappeared on January 25, 2016.
His body was found nine days later on the outskirts Egypt’s capital, bearing signs of extensive torture.
“This story makes us grieve, but now a trial by our judicial authorities will start … a true, serious and credible trial,” Conte said. “This trial is the instrument to reach the truth, which unfortunately is expected to be shocking.”
According to a reconstruction produced by Italian prosecutors, Regeni was abducted at a metro station in the Cairo neighbourhood of Dokki, where he lived. He was then tortured at the National Security Agency’s office number 13, typically used to interrogate foreign nationals.
Testimony from one unidentified witness said Regeni was seen lying on the floor, bound in iron chains, with red marks on his chest.
Italian prosecutors believe that Regeni’s activities drew the NSA’s attention because they felt he was trying to fuel social unrest, especially after he offered to help a union to apply for a grant from a British NGO.
Egyptian authorities, under the supervision of Aser Kamal, an officer responsible at the time for monitoring foreigners in Egypt, instructed a man named Mohammed Abdullah to track Regeni, according to an exclusive video clip obtained by Al Jazeera.
The 25-second video recording, allegedly sent to Kamal, is the first evidence that confirms Regeni was targeted and monitored by Egyptian authorities.
In the latest developments, Egypt dismissed Italy’s allegations, claiming they were not based on solid evidence, and announced the temporary closure of an investigation.
Meanwhile, Conte refused to comment on French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to hand to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi the Legion of Honour, the top French distinction award, but said “surely everybody was struck” by the decision.
After the Egyptian leader received the highly regarded medal, two prominent Italian intellectuals announced they were going to return their awards to France in protest.
La Repubblica journalist Corrado Augias, who was once a centre-left politician in the European Parliament, returned his Legion of Honour prize on Monday.
Giovanna Melandri, a former Italian culture minister and the president of Rome’s Maxxi contemporary art museum, said she would follow suit.
But Italy’s government has also been repeatedly criticised for failing to exert enough pressure on Egypt while improving economic and political ties with Cairo.
In June, Conte said the Regeni case remained at the centre of the government’s dialogue with Egyptian authorities, while Rome sealed a deal worth $1.3bn in weapons sales.
From 2016 to 2019, sales of Italian arms to Egypt jumped from $8.6m to more than $1bn, according to annual parliamentary reports.
Asked whether Italy was planning to recall its ambassador over the Regeni case, Conte said he was considering the move, but stressed that the trial was now more important.
Regeni’s parents have long urged the Italian government to withdraw its envoy from Cairo, seen as an effective tool to gain political leverage.
“What are Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, doing for Giulio? And why have our relations with Egypt become increasingly friendly?” Regeni’s mother, Paola Defenti, said on Thursday.