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

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.


Bashir defense asks Sudan court for bail release

Updated 33 min 2 sec ago

Bashir defense asks Sudan court for bail release

  • Bashir, wearing a traditional white gown, sat in the same metal cage he appeared in on Monday when his trial on graft charges opened
  • The former Sudanese leader is also wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague over his role in mass killings in the western region of Darfur

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s deposed military ruler Omar Al-Bashir appeared in court Saturday for the second hearing of his corruption trial, during which his defense asked for his release on bail.
Bashir, wearing a traditional white gown, sat in the same metal cage he appeared in on Monday when his trial on graft charges opened.
The judge in Khartoum Saturday heard three witnesses, two of them investigators who searched Bashir’s residency after his ouster and the other a banker.
“We ask the court to release the accused on bail,” Bashir’s lawyer Hashem Abu Bakr said, to which the judge answered he would examine a written request.
After the hearing, as a massive security convoy escorted the 75-year-old Bashir back to prison, two opposing groups of demonstrators had gathered.
One group of a few dozen protesters were chanting slogans for Bashir to face justice not just over corruption but for his role in the the country’s deadly conflicts.
“Bashir is a killer” and “He has to face justice,” chanted some of the demonstrators.
Another smaller group had turned out in support of the deposed Islamist general, who was forced from power by relentless protests in April after 30 years in power.
While the sight of Bashir sitting inside a cage in a courtroom was unthinkable only months ago, many in Sudan and abroad have warned that this trial should not distract from the more serious indictments he faces.
The former Sudanese leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague over his role in mass killings in the western region of Darfur.