Egypt’s public prosecutor has cleared five policemen of responsibility in the 2016 murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni and said he will not pursue the case because the perpetrator is unknown.
The decision announced on Wednesday by state prosecutor Hamada al-Sawy came nearly three weeks after Italian prosecutors said they planned to charge four Egyptian security officers over the torture and death of the 28-year-old.
The Cambridge University graduate was in Egypt researching trade unions when he was kidnapped in January 2016 and his mutilated body later found on the outskirts of Cairo.
His death sparked outrage in Italy and strained diplomatic relations between the two countries, with Italy’s government accusing Egyptian authorities of non-cooperation.
Sawy said in a statement that Egypt’s public prosecution has no intention of “pursuing a criminal case in the murder, abduction and torture of Giulio Regeni because the perpetrator is unknown”.
Investigators would continue to seek the identity of the murderer but the prosecution has “ruled out” any charges “against the four officers and a fifth policeman” in connection with the case, he said.
The prosecution said the victim’s parents had collected his belongings from his residence in Cairo, especially his laptop, immediately after the announcement of his death and before the prosecution’s inspection.
It added that the Italian side had rejected requests to hand over the victim’s laptop to analyse its contents.
The prosecution said that it sought information from Cambridge University in Britain about Regeni’s studies, and from Kenya about testimony given by a witness who said he heard a discussion between an Egyptian police officer and another person about the incident.
However, neither provided the requested information, it said.
On December 10, Italian public prosecutor Michele Prestipino told a parliamentary commission in Rome there were “elements of significant proof” implicating Egyptian policemen.
“We are going to ask to begin a criminal action concerning certain members of the Egyptian security services,” he said. “We owe it to the memory of Giulio Regeni.”
Regeni had been researching the sensitive topic of labour organisations in Egypt when he disappeared. He had also written articles critical of the government under a pen name.
Since his death, Italian investigators have rejected multiple theories put forward by Egyptian authorities, including that Regeni had been working as a spy, or that he was the victim of a criminal gang.
The victim’s behaviour, which did not fit with the PhD research he was conducting, prompted security authorities to monitor him through measures that did not restrict his freedom or violate his private life, the prosecutor said in Wednesday’s statement.
Investigations revealed that, as part of his studies, he spoke to some street vendors about Egypt’s political system and assured them that they can change the situation, since it had happened in other countries.
The statement added that the investigations stopped after it turned out that that his actions did not constitute crimes against public security.
Though the prosecution offered no alternative murder suspect, the statement suggested the unknown killer had deliberately chosen January 25 – the anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising – for the crime, seeking to frame police for the act.
The prosecution further accused unspecified parties hostile to Egypt and Italy of the crime, in a bid to drive a wedge between the two.