Egyptian-Italian ties back on track after student murder probe

Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio speaks during a news conference in Cairo. (Reuters)
Updated 31 August 2018
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Egyptian-Italian ties back on track after student murder probe

  • Regeni disappeared on Jan. 25, 2016 while doing postgraduate research on Egyptian trade unions. His body was discovered on Feb. 3 and Egyptian investigators found signs of extensive torture
  • I hope that by the end of the year we can get to a breakthrough: Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio

CAIRO: Italy hopes for a breakthrough by the end of this year in the investigation into the death of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Egypt, Italy’s deputy prime minister said during a visit to Cairo.

Regeni disappeared on Jan. 25, 2016 while doing postgraduate research on Egyptian trade unions. His body was discovered on Feb. 3 and Egyptian investigators found signs of extensive torture.

“I hope that by the end of the year we can get to a breakthrough, and that the meeting between the judicial authorities can take place as soon as possible,” said Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who serves in a coalition government that took office in June earlier this year.

“Both on the Egyptian side and on our side, there is willingness to ask for an acceleration,” he said after a meeting with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Egypt’s presidency said in a statement that El-Sisi affirmed during the Wednesday meeting with Di Maio “his confidence in reaching the final results in the investigations into the killing of (Regeni), in light of the strong will to find the culprits and bring them to justice.”

Intelligence and security sources told Reuters in 2016 that police had arrested Regeni outside a Cairo metro station on Jan. 25 of that year and then transferred him to a compound run by Homeland Security.

Egyptian officials have denied any involvement in his death and El-Sisi said last month that Cairo was determined to conclude a joint investigation and bring Regeni’s killers to justice.

Di Maio said judicial officials from Italy and Egypt, which have been investigating the Regeni case jointly, were due to meet soon.

Egyptian and Italian investigators have been working together to retrieve CCTV recordings from Cairo metro stations as part of the investigation. The two sides said in June that they had found gaps in the footage from inside and around Cairo metro stations and were trying to discover the cause.

Di Maio said he had not discussed details of the case with Sisi, but that Regeni had topped the agenda of their talks. 

“It’s clear that the normalization of our relations has to come about through the truth about Giulio Regeni and (his) death,” he said.

“Both President El-Sisi and the members of the government present were more than willing and in agreement that the truth about Giulio Regeni should be established as soon as possible.”

The Regeni case strained relations between Italy and Egypt. Italy recalled its ambassador in April 2016 before restoring its diplomatic presence in Cairo last year.

Italy is an important trade partner for Egypt, with €4.75 billion ($5.5 billion) in commerce per year according to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. Italian oil major Eni is among Egypt’s top foreign investors.

The Egyptian president hailed the return of “normal” relations with Italy that were long strained over Regeni’s murder.

In discussing the Regeni case, the Egyptian president expressed “a strong will to reveal the perpetrators and bring them to justice”, according to a statement released by his spokesman Bassam Radi.

El-Sisi said he was keen to enhance cooperation and welcomed the increasing diplomatic visits between Egypt and Italy as a “return of relations to their normal course”.

Di Maio, leader of Italy’s populist Five Star Movement, praised the “progress made on the case and the sincere cooperation” of Egyptian authorities, the statement said.

Regeni was researching labor movements when he disappeared and Egyptian authorities have been accused of failing to cooperate in the Italian investigation.

The visit to Cairo by Di Maio comes less than three weeks after that of Italy’s Foreign Minister, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, during which “cooperation” on the Regeni case was also noted.

In the latest bilateral meeting, El-Sisi and Di Maio also discussed illegal immigration and developments in Libya.

The two sides also talked about strengthening ties “especially in the economic and trade fields,” as well as the energy sector, the statement said.

In January, El-Sisi and the boss of Italian energy giant Eni, Claudio Descalzi, attended the inauguration of the offshore Zohr gas field which the firm discovered in 2015.


Syrian activists say 10 killed in Idlib bombings

Updated 6 min 9 sec ago
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Syrian activists say 10 killed in Idlib bombings

  • The Syrian Observatory said the blasts in the Qusour neighborhood during killed 13 people and wounded 25

BEIRUT: Syrian opposition activists and paramedics say two bomb blasts have struck the northwestern city of Idlib, killing at least 10 people.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the blasts in the Qusour neighborhood during rush hour Monday killed 13 people and wounded 25.
The Edlib Media Center, an activist collective, said the bombings killed 10 and wounded dozens.
The first blast occurred in the early afternoon and another followed seconds later. The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, a group of volunteer first responders, said one of its members was wounded.
The city of Idlib is controlled by Al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, which has wide influence in northern Syria.
The city has been hit with bombings in recent months that killed or wounded scores of people.