Retired police general among 5 Egyptians being investigated by Italy in student’s murder

A man holds a placard during a vigil to commemorate Giulio Regeni, who was found murdered in Cairo a year ago, in downtown Rome, Italy, on January 25, 2017. (REUTERS/file photo)
Updated 05 December 2018
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Retired police general among 5 Egyptians being investigated by Italy in student’s murder

  • Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge University graduate student who was researching trade unions in Egypt, disappeared in Cairo on January 25, 2016 and was found dead later
  • The five Egyptian officials under investigation in Italy are a now-retired major general and a major at the domestic security agency, two police colonels and a junior police officer, according to security officials in Cairo

ROME: Prosecutors in Rome on Tuesday formally opened an investigation into five Egyptian domestic secret service members and police investigators in connection with the 2016 torture and murder of an Italian researcher.

The five were being investigated on possible abduction charges related to the murder in January 2016 of 28-year-old Giulio Regeni, who was abducted and tortured for several days before his body was left on a desert highway north of Cairo. Prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco said the suspects are believed to have been active participants in Regeni’s abduction.

The launch of the investigation was likely to raise tensions with Egypt, which has already bristled at moves by Italy’s lower house to cut off parliamentary relations over the case. There was no immediate reaction from Cairo, but Egyptian prosecutors have reportedly rejected an Italian request to treat as suspects several policemen involved in the surveillance of Regeni for his work studying trade unions.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called Eygpt a “friendly country,” saying he wanted to maintain “good economic, cultural, commercial and social relations” but that “we have been waiting three years.”

The five Egyptian officials under investigation in Italy are a now-retired major general and a major at the domestic security agency, two police colonels and a junior police officer, according to security officials in Cairo. At least one of the officials has been reassigned to a remote province.

Police Maj. Gen. Tareq Saber was a top official at the domestic security agency at the time of Regeni’s abduction and killing. He retired in 2017. Police Maj. Sherif Magdy served at the same agency, and was in charge of the team that placed Regeni under surveillance.

The police officials were Col. Hesham Helmy, who served at the time of the abduction at a security center in charge of policing the Cairo district where Regeni lived; Col. Acer Kamal, who was head of a police department in charge of street works and discipline; and junior police officer Mahmoud Nejm.

Regeni, a Cambridge University graduate student who was researching trade unions in Egypt, disappeared in Cairo on January 25, 2016 — the fifth anniversary of Egypt’s popular uprising when thousands of police deployed across Cairo to pre-empt any attempt to mark the occasion. His body was found several days later by the side of a highway near Cairo with torture marks that activists and rights groups say resembled the results of widespread torture practices in Egyptian detention facilities.

Italy has been pushing Cairo for years to identify and prosecute those responsible for torturing and killing Regeni but has increased pressure as the third anniversary of his death approaches. The Foreign Ministry last week formally summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Rome to prompt Cairo to “act rapidly” on the case, following a recent meeting between Egyptian and Italian prosecutors.

Decoder


Macron sparks Turkish anger by meeting Syrian Kurds

Updated 45 min 41 sec ago
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Macron sparks Turkish anger by meeting Syrian Kurds

  • Macron assured the Kurdish envoys of French support in their fight against the remaining militants
  • Ankara accused the French leader of “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups”

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from Turkey’s foreign ministry.
Macron assured the Kurdish envoys of French support in their fight against the remaining militants, but Ankara accused the French leader of “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups.”
“We condemn the reception by French President Emmanuel Macron of a delegation of so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF),” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in the statement.
In late March the US-backed SDF flushed out Daesh fighters from their last bastion in Syria but Kurdish-led force still warns that the militants remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella Kurdish-Arab force dominated by Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). It is regarded with huge distrust by neighboring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the visiting SDF representatives, who were not named, of the “active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security,” the presidency said in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for Daesh.
Particularly important is the support in the “handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families.”
European capitals are keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the militants, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to “respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilization of civilian populations in Syria.”
The SDF were the West’s key ally in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh has been beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
France’s past contacts with the SDF’s Syrian Kurds had already angered Turkey which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron on Friday made clear of the importance to Paris of “the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border,” the French presidency said.
But Aksoy said Macron’s move did not sit well with the French-Turkish alliance, and warned that “Turkey will not hesitate to take measures deemed necessary to protect its national security.”