Egyptian secret services played a role in the Giulio Regeni case, and investigations have demonstrated that Regeni’s “research activity” was the primary motive for his torture and murder, Italian General Prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone claimed in a letter addressed to two major Italian newspapers on Thursday, according to the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA).
The Pignatone letter was published in commemoration of the two year anniversary since Regeni first disappeared on January 25, 2016. Despite the General Prosecutor’s public accusations, Pignatone did not elaborate on the nature of the security agencies’ involvement in Regeni’s case, or the specific agency he believes is implicated.
Egyptian authorities had been identified as the prime suspect in Regeni’s case on several occasions prior. Although, they have consistently denied any involvement in the matter. Recently, Egyptian General Prosecutor Nabil Sadek denied on Wednesday the validity of a letter, allegedly from the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, and addressed to the head of the Military Intelligence Service on January 30, 2016, intended to inform the latter of Regeni’s arrest.
ANSA reports that the Pignatone letter affirms that “the Egyptian public apparatus … had concentrated their attention on Giulio in the previous months, with more pressing methods up to January 25,” claiming that such actions are “firm points” in the case for Egyptian secret services’ complicity in Regeni’s torture and murder.
Italian Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, tweeted on Thursday, the anniversary of Regeni’s disappearance, that Italy had not forgotten the young scholar’s “horrible assassination,” before affirming that “the commitment to the search for truth continues.”
Regeni’s case caused a diplomatic rift between Egypt and Italy after some leads pointed to Egyptian security agencies’ involvement in torturing and killing the PhD candidate. The strain placed on Egyptian-Italian relations was at its most evident when the Italian government recalled its Cairo ambassador, Maurizio Massari, for consultation in April 2016. However, in September 2017, Italy reinstated Ambassador Giampaolo Cantini at its Egypt mission.
Investigations into Regeni’s murder have also taken a toll on Cambridge associate professor and Regeni’s supervisor, Maha Abdelrahman, who has been accused of endangering the Italian student by pressuring Regeni to study Egyptian labor unions, even after he expressed concerns for his safety. The University of Cambridge came to Abdelrahman’s defense in a letter to the university’s academic community, wherein Cambridge Vice Chancellor Stephen Topp asserted that the institution rejects any accusations that the associate professor was responsible for putting the Italian student in danger, writing that “speculation about Dr Abdelrahman’s involvement in the case has been inaccurate, damaging and potentially dangerous.” The letter, published earlier in January, followed reports that Italian investigators, in cooperation with authorities in the United Kingdom, had seized Abdelrahman’s mobile phone and laptop on January 10.
Regeni’s body was found on a highway between Cairo and Alexandria with signs of torture on February 3, 2016, days after his initial disappearance on January 25. The Cambridge University PhD candidate was in Cairo conducting field research for his thesis on independent unions in Egypt.