Contradictions, rumors and conspiracy surround Giulio Regeni in local press

Local press in Egypt has been circulating numerous unconfirmed reports about the cause of Italian student Giulio Regeni’s brutal death in recent weeks. From Regeni being involved with Italian intelligence services to his death being part of a conspiracy to disrupt Italian-Egyptian relations, Egyptian news outlets have been widely speculating about the circumstances surrounding the murder and its investigation.

Regeni’s body was found in February by the side of a road on the outskirts of Cairo in the Giza suburb of 6th of October City, showing signs of torture, including cigarette burns, bruises, cuts and multiple stab wounds. The 28-year-old went missing on January 25, 2016 — the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution, after he was reportedly headed to the downtown Cairo district of Bab al-Louq, near Tahrir Square, which was occupied by heavily armed police forces.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stated on Wednesday that Regeni may have been killed to cause a rupture in the economic relationship between Italy and Egypt, reported the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Sisi stated that it was strange that reports of Regeni’s death coincided with the Italian Economic Development Minister’s visit to Cairo, “at a time where both countries were looking forward to great political and economic development. Perhaps there were parties with an interest in blocking this cooperation.”

Regeni’s death was an exceptional case and Italian visitors are welcome to Egypt, the president added. He expressed his condolences to Regeni’s family and maintained that he would continue working with Italian authorities to investigate his death.

A persistent news item shared across several media outlets in the past few days is that Regeni was seen having a fight with a foreigner in front of the Italian consulate in downtown Cairo the day before he disappeared.

Hossam Nasser, the head of the emergency prosecution in South Giza, stated that the prosecution had interviewed a witness, Mohamed Fawzy, who said that he had seen Regeni fighting loudly with a foreigner in front of the Italian consulate and that the fight looked like it was going to turn physical, reported the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper.

After reports emerged from the prosecution with Fawzy’s account, General Abu Bakr Abdel Karim, the deputy minister for public relations and human rights at the Interior Ministry, stated during a televised telephone interview that the witness who reported the fight is not reliable and there is no video evidence of the altercation.

Fawzy later appeared on controversial TV personality Ahmed Moussa’s show “My Responsibility,” where he stated that he believed that the Italian authorities know who killed Regeni and the motive behind the murder, but are not sharing this information with Egyptian authorities. He further alleged, as Sisi did later, that Regeni’s death may have been intended to cause a rift between Egypt and Italy, implying that Regeni’s death was meant to stall the Eni gas deal between the two countries.

Waleed Ismail, a journalist for the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper, posted on his Facebook page a number of inconsistencies in the witness account. Chief among them is that while the witness claimed that he saw the fight in downtown Cairo between 5 and 6 pm, Ismail says the prosecution released a statement saying the witness never left his house in the Giza governorate of 6th of October City on January 24.

Fawzy claimed that he was able to walk from the Cairo district of Bulaq to the Italian consulate in downtown Cairo in a matter of two or three minutes, Ismail noted, while that journey typically takes at least ten to fifteen minutes on foot.

Mohamed Basal, another journalist commenting on the issue, pointed out that while the witness claimed he was able to identify the foreigner he saw fighting with Regeni after being shown 200 pictures of potential suspects, the prosecution had previously stated that the witness was unsure of the foreigner’s identity.

The prosecution reportedly told Fawzy to come in and give his testimony again and noticed inconsistencies, prompting them to release a statement on Wednesday claiming he is not a reliable witness and that he fabricated the account, reported privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.

To add to the confusion, the privately owned Innfrad reported on Wednesday that Fawzy arrived at the interview with Moussa in an Interior Ministry car, suggesting a connection between him and the ministry.

These are not the only rumors around Regeni’s death in recent days. On March 1, the privately owned Al-Tahrir published what they claimed were reports from the Italian delegation’s investigations into Regeni’s death. These reports allegedly claimed that Regeni was working with a company to gather information on labor syndicates and was known for publishing reports on labor unions in Egypt.

Tahrir emphasized that Regeni had worked for Oxford Analytica, a consulting firm for international companies and businesses, which they stated is owned by a former American foreign minister and a general from the intelligence community. It also included statements from a number of witnesses stating that Regeni appeared anxious and paranoid before his death. The witness statements, which largely came from neighbors, the report allaged, also added that Regeni liked to talk about women, his relationships with women and “his desires.”

Earlier that week, Al-Shorouk also published an article linking Regeni to Italian intelligence services and saying that they found the names and numbers of Egyptian opposition figures on Regeni’s laptop and that he was believed to be sharing the information with a British company linked to intelligence. The article also included quotes from neighbors and acquaintances saying that Regeni appeared nervous and talked to street vendors about women and labor unions.  

Reports have surfaced from Reuters and other sources that Regeni was tortured for days before he died, and that the methods of torture used on Regeni bear the hallmarks of Egyptian security services. These reports have been stringently denied by Egyptian authorities.