Regeni murder: Italy orders four Egyptians to stand trial

More than five years after an Italian student’s body was found in Cairo, a Rome judge says four senior Egyptian security officials should face trial over his kidnap, torture and murder.

Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge University postgraduate student, disappeared in January 2016.

His body was so badly disfigured his mother could barely identify him.

The four members of the Egyptian security forces are unlikely to travel to Rome for the 14 October trial.

The murder has heightened tensions between the two countries. Italian and Egyptian investigators had originally tried to work on the case together but when Rome prosecutors pushed for a trial in late 2020, their counterparts in Cairo said there was “insufficient evidence to support the accusation in court”.

Egypt said evidence had been found that Regeni had been robbed by a criminal gang but that the killer had not been identified.

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Who was Giulio Regeni?

At the time of his disappearance, the 28-year-old PhD student was researching Egypt’s independent trade unions, a controversial subject in a country where unofficial protest movements have faced a crackdown in recent years.

His body was found dumped in a ditch by a road near Cairo on 3 February 2016. An Italian post-mortem examination found he had been tortured “in stages” between 25 January and the day of his death.
Claudio Regeni (L) and Paola Regeni (R) show a photo depicting their son Giulio Regeni at the Italian Senate on April 3, 2017 in Romeimage copyrightGetty Images
image captionGiulio Regeni’s parents, Claudio and Paola, have campaigned for justice for their son for more than five years

Rome prosecutors went further, detailing “acute physical suffering” from kicks, punches, beatings, cuts and even burns from red-hot objects.

Egyptian officials have admitted Regeni was being monitored and Italian investigators said in 2018 that people he had met while doing his research had betrayed him.
Who are the suspects?

The four Egyptians all deny involvement in the student’s disappearance and killing. Cairo prosecutors dropped all proceedings against them and a fifth suspect last December.

Gen Tariq Sabir, Col Usham Helmi, Col Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim and Maj Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif all face charges in Italy of kidnapping Regeni. Maj Sharif is also accused of conspiring to inflict aggravated injuries and murder.

The student’s parents, Paola Deffendi and Claudio Regeni, were at Tuesday’s hearing to hear Judge Pierluigi Balestrieri rule that there was sufficient evidence to indict the four men.

Their lawyer, Alessandra Ballerini, told reporters that all the young man’s rights had been violated, “but today we have the well-founded hope that at least the right to the truth will not be denied Giulio”.

“It has taken us 64 months. But it is a good goal and a good starting point,” she said.

Egyptian officials did not comment immediately on the decision and as the four suspects’ home details have not been given to the Italians, there is little chance of contacting them or that the Cairo government will agree to them attending the trial.

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