Egypt temporarily closes Giulio Regeni's murder case

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Wednesday 30 Dec 2020

The prosecutor-general’s office said it is excluding from the case the accusations directed to four Egyptian police officers and a policeman

Giulio Regini
Giulio Regeni (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Egypt’s prosecutor-general announced on Wednesday his office will temporarily not pursue a criminal lawsuit in the case of the murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni due to not knowing the identity of the perpetrator of the crime.

The prosecutor-general’s office also announced it is excluding from the case the accusations directed to four police officers and a policeman in Egypt’s national security who were accused by Italy's prosecutor-general several weeks ago. 

In the latest episode of “the Giulio Regeni saga," the Egyptian prosecutor-general said it is closing the case of the theft of Regeni’s belongings since the preparators were killed in a firefight with the police in March 2016, refuting the accusations in his Italian counterpart's statement.

Regeni, a 28-year-old student who was conducting his postgraduate research on the Egyptian labour movement, disappeared in Cairo on 25 January 2016, the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Revolution.

He was found dead 10 days later in a ditch on the outskirts of Cairo. Egyptian investigators said his body bore signs of torture.

In its statement on Wednesday, the Egyptian prosecutor-general said Egyptian and Italian investigation teams have held 15 meetings since the onset of investigations.

The prosecutor-general’s office revealed that Cairo made five requests to Rome concerning the investigation, some of which were not met.

According to the prosecutor-general's statement on Wednesday, the Italian prosecution-general denied the request of his Egyptian counterpart to examine Regeni’s laptop after it was taken back to Italy by his parents.

The Egyptian prosecution demanded to check witnesses’ records and statements which the Italian prosecution included in its statement accusing the five Egyptian national security personnel of torturing and killing Regeni.

However, the Italian prosecution rejected, claiming it is committed to the countries from where it received the information, despite the fact Egypt is entitled to be aware of all the information concerning the investigation, the Egyptian prosecution said.

The Egyptian prosecutor-general declared he received four requests from his Italian counterpart and didn't meet some of them, such as making available mobile phone operators’ data for five metro stations in the period before the disappearance of Regeni and after the appearance of his body.

The Egyptian prosecution also rejected to share the names of the foreigners arrested in the country on the night of Regeni’s disappearance.

The Egyptian prosecution office stated that it rejected both requests for technical reasons and to protect Egyptian citizens’ privacy.

Cairo also revealed that it sent requests for assistance in investigation to the UK and Kenya.

Egypt wanted to inquire from Cambridge University about the victim’s study and funding for his research. It also wanted to question a witness from Kenya who claimed he knew from an Egyptian officer how Regeni was killed.

Both requests were not met without giving reason, the Egyptian prosecution said.

On 30 November, the Egyptian and Italian prosecution issued a joint statement on the case showing both were taking different routes in the murder investigation.

The Italian prosecution intends to conclude its own investigation into the murder, which has led it to five Egyptian suspects, all of whom work in the Egyptian security apparatuses.

The suspected involvement of the five security personnel is not connected to any Egyptian governmental entity. The Italian prosecution will present its case to Rome's Preliminary Investigations judge.

However, the Egyptian prosecution said that while it appreciates the Italian legal proceedings, it has expressed its reservation about Italy’s suspicions, which it said are "not based on solid evidence.”

On Wednesday, the Egyptian prosecution reiterated its reservation about the accusations, saying that it had initiated investigations into what was raised by the Italian Investigative Authority against the four Egyptian police officers and a conscript  from the “national security apparatus”, and ended up excluding all that was attributed to them.

"The [Egyptian] prosecution found that all the suspicions raised by the Italian Investigative Authority were due to false conclusions that are not accepted by logic and are not in line with internationally established criminal legal rules and the basic principles of law, which require the availability of certain evidence with absolute certainty against the suspects to be criminally prosecuted, rather than relying on suspicions that do not amount to evidence or even indirect clues," the statement of the prosecutor-general said.

In addition, the Egyptian statement said the Italian Investigative Authority incorrectly linked facts with evidence, which distorted perception of the facts, and created a disturbance in the understanding of the nature of the police officers' work, their procedures, and the nature of the investigation conducted on the victim's behaviour.

Regini's suspicious behaviour

The Egyptian prosecution said in Wednesday's statement that investigations continued for nearly five consecutive years, during which it took stock of all the circumstances from the disappearance of Regeni until the appearance of his body and revealed details about the period of time in which he frequently visited and stayed in Egypt, in addition to his multiple trips to and from Egypt when he was visiting other countries, including Italy, Turkey, and Israel.

The investigations also determined what he was doing in the days leading up to his disappearance and the day he disappeared in detail. The prosecution heard the testimony of more than one hundred and twenty witnesses, according to the statement.

Based on the results of these procedures, the Egyptian prosecution requested the findings from various security authorities and found the individuals that the victim came in contact with while conducting his research. These individuals included a number of independent trade union members, some street vendors, and various individuals belonging to different political orientations.

The outcomes of these investigations also revealed "Regeni's presence in public gatherings, criticizing the behavior of some political currents in the country and the manner in which these political currents dealt with the political movement."

"The investigations showed that the victim spoke to street vendors about the regime in Egypt, assuring them that they have the power to change the circumstances in it, just like what happened in other countries," the prosecution said.

Regarding the conclusion the Italian Investigative Authority came to, in terms of the involvement of some of the suspects in the murder who were tasked with investigating the victim after a report was submitted against him, questioning his suspicious behavior, the Egyptian prosecution said that the victim's disproportionate behavior to the research he was conducting was a reason to follow him.

"The victim's behaviour was inconsistent with the research he was conducting, and that was a sufficient reason for security services to exercise their work and their legal duty to follow up with him through administrative investigation procedures that do not restrict his freedom or violate the sanctity of his private life," the statement said.

"The investigations confirmed that despite his suspicious behaviour, the [initial] investigation concluded that his actions did not constitute crimes against public security. Therefore, all investigations into his behaviour ceased at that point and no legal measures were taken against him," the Egyptian prosecution said.

From all the submitted investigations, it has been proven to the Egyptian prosecution that the victim’s behaviour and unusual movements were not hidden to any of the common people but were rather public. In addition, the news of the report submitted against him became public, the statement said.

This, it added, could have been exploited by an unknown individual who could have determined to commit this crime on 25 January 2016, knowing that Egyptian security would be busy trying to secure vital facilities at the time, and hence he kidnapped, detained, and physically tortured the victim in order to affix the accusation to members of the Egyptian security.

"In conjunction with the arrival of an economic delegation to visit the country, the victim was killed, and his body was thrown at a vital location near important facilities, some of which belong to the police, to draw attention to the murder. This confirmed to the public prosecution the presence of parties hostile to Egypt and Italy seeking to exploit the incident as a wedge between them in light of the positive development in their relations during the recent period," the statement said.

Hence, the public prosecution concluded in its statement that there are circumstances surrounding the incident that paint a different picture, but that the investigations have not revealed the details of these circumstances or led to identifying the perpetrator.

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