Italian investigators examining the murder and torture of Italian student Giulio Regeni said the “case is not at all closed” on Friday, following a statement by Egypt’s Interior Ministry that they found Regeni’s identification documents in an appartment in Cairo as proof he may have been kidnapped by a gang.
“There is no definitive evidence confirming they were responsible,” Italian authorities claimed, adding that Egyptian investigators have yet to pass on important material to them.
The Interior Ministry said police found Regeni’s identity documents in an appartment linked to a group of men suspected of robbing foreigners, hours after police shot several of the alleged gang members in a microbus in New Cairo on Thursday.
Pictures of Regeni’s American University in Cairo and Cambridge University ID cards and his passport were posted on the Interior Ministry’s official Facebook Page, along with the statement, which claimed Regeni’s credit card, two mobile phones and a brown substance that could be hashish, were discovered in a red handbag in the apartment of the sister of one of the suspects.
But the public prosecution denied the linking of the suspects to Regeni’s murder earlier on Thursday afternoon, after local media published a slew of articles to this effect. The prosecution stated that an Italian citizen had accused the suspects of making threats and stealing US$10,000.
In the absence of an official narrative from investigations into Regeni’s death, local and international media has been replete with rumors in recent months as to how the Italian student died. Multiple Egyptian articles have implied he was working with British intelligence services, that his murder was part of a conspiracy to damage Egypt-Italy relations or that his death was linked to a fight with another foreigner.
Italian investigators highlighted a number of inconsistencies in Egypt’s latest explanation of what happened to Regeni, querying how likely it is that kidnappers would torture a victim and then hold onto his ID documents for months after his death. They also lamented the deaths of the suspects, who now cannot be questioned in relation to Regeni’s murder.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said on Friday it had largely succeeded in solving the case of Regeni’s death. “The Egyptian Interior Ministry offers all its gratitude and appreciation to the Italian security team for its close cooperation, and for the positive role and constant communication with the Egyptian security team throughout the investigation and information gathering.”
Italy’s former Prime Minister Enrico Letta tweeted, “I’m sorry, #I_don’t_believe_it. Don’t stopping asking for the #Truth_for_GiulioRegeni,” in response on Friday, and Regeni’s parents posted a picture on Facebook featuring them holding a sign saying, “Verita per Giulio Regeni” (Truth for Giulio Regeni).
Security forces fatally shot five men in a microbus in New Cairo on Thursday morning, claiming they were armed gang members suspected of impersonating police officers, theft and kidnapping foreigners, a statement posted on the Interior Ministry’s Facebook page asserted. There were no other passengers in the bus to cooberate the account.
A team from the public prosecution reportedly supervised the autopsy of the bodies after the incident and then ordered them to be buried immediately.
The prosecution initially denied a link between the dead gang members and Regeni, responding to articles such as one published in the privately owned newspaper Al-Tahrir, in which an unidentified security source claimed that police killed five people suspected of gang activity targeting foreigners and of involvement in Regeni’s death.
Regeni was found in February by the side of a road on the outskirts of Cairo. His body bore signs of torture, including cigarette burns, bruises, cuts and multiple stab wounds. The 28-year-old went missing on the fifth anniversary of the January 25, 2011 revolution when he was allegedly on his way to visit a friend in downtown Cairo, an area that was heavily occupied by security forces that day.
The source told Al-Tahrir that after investigations, security forces tracked the suspects to New Cairo. The suspects then opened fire from their microbus, prompting the police to fire back, killing all five people inside the bus, the source alleged. Al-Tahrir posted pictures of the bodies of two people purportedly killed in the shootout and a microbus riddled with bullet holes.
The Interior Ministry’s statement asserted that security forces raided the residence of 34-year-old Rasha Abdel Fattah, the sister of 52-year-old Tarek Abdel Fattah, and arrested Tarek’s wife — 48-year-old Mabrooka Afify. After interrogation by police, Rasha reportedly confessed that the items found in her home were stolen by her brother. She added that she was aware of his “criminal activities,” according to the statement. Mabrooka said she didn’t know anything about the bag or its contents, the ministry’s statement reported.
Tarek Abdel Fattah, listed in the ministry’s report as defendant one, was described as “a dangerous offender,” who was reportedly involved in 24 criminal cases, and was previously sentenced to four years in prison. The second defendant, identified by police as 26-year-old Saad Tarek Saad, is reportedly Tarek’s son. The third defendant, 60-year-old Mostafa Bakr Awad, was allegedly involved in 20 criminal cases, the fourth defendant, 40-year-old Salah Ali Sayyed, was allegedly involved in 11 criminal cases, and the fifth was an unidentified man in his thirties, according to the ministry’s statement.
Police said they found firearms, a tazer, and fake police ID cards in the microbus, according to the Interior Ministry. The defendants were allegedly involved in a series of robberies targeting locals and foreigners in Nasr City and New Cairo.
The privately owned newspaper Al-Dostour also reported on the story with the headline, “Source discovers the ‘foreign killing mafia’ behind the Regeni incident.” An unnamed security source told Al-Dostour that the Interior Ministry was investigating six people suspected of kidnapping and killing Regeni. The suspects have a record of intimidating and robbing foreigners, the newspaper claimed.
Reports from Reuters and other international media sources indicated that Regeni was tortured for days before he died, and that the torture methods bear the hallmarks of Egyptian security services. These reports have been strongly denied by Egyptian authorities.