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

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


Families grieve after Kabul wedding blast

An Afghan man mourns during the funeral of his brother after a bomb exploded at a wedding hall killing 63 people and injuring 200 others. (Reuters)
Updated 34 min 17 sec ago

Families grieve after Kabul wedding blast

  • Bride’s relatives, members of music band among victims of Daesh attack

KABUL: Mirwais Elmi’s special night soon became a bloodbath after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the hotel hall where his wedding ceremony was taking place, killing more than 63 people and injuring 200 others in Kabul on Sunday. Elmi and his bride, who were in separate areas of the venue, survived the blast. The explosion took place just before dinner was to be served to the nearly 1,000 guests who had gathered in the southwest of the city.
The local Daesh affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack Speaking to a private TV channel on Sunday, a shaken Elmi was unable to describe the carnage that took place.
“I am not a groom today, my family, my friends are all in grief,” Elmi, who is in his early 20s and works as a tailor, said.
He added that he never thought “such an incident would happen during my wedding party.”
As survivors buried victims of the attack, an infant’s milk bottle and an invitation card could be seen near one of the hotel’s walls, badly damaged by the blast.
The attack comes as the US and Taliban close in on a peace deal which would lead to the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, nearly 18 years after the Taliban were ousted. The group immediately distanced themselves from the attack and strongly condemned it.
Elmi’s father-in-law lost 14 members of his family, while another man lost three of his sons, four nephews and five of his aunt’s grandchildren, according to survivor accounts.
“My family and my bride are in shock, they cannot speak. My bride keeps fainting. I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again,” he said. All five members of the wedding’s music band were killed. The groom and bride’s families, like many of those attending the ceremony, belonged to poor families.  
None of the guests were government officials sought by Daesh or other militant groups.

Government leaders live behind heavily protected compounds, drive in armored vehicles and have their families living abroad, but we ordinary Afghans are suffering routinely.

Ghulam Hussien Nasiri, Lawmaker

Many of the victims were children and young men. The hotel had no guards and guests were not body searched, according to survivors.
Shi’ite cultural centers and an anti-government protest have all recently come under attack, but Sunday’s wedding blast was the first of its kind, evoking a reaction from President Ashraf Ghani. He blamed Daesh for the incident. “I strongly condemn the inhumane attack on the wedding hall in Kabul. My top priority for now is to reach out to the families of victims of this barbaric attack. On behalf of the nation, I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were martyred. “The Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide a platform for terrorists,” he tweeted.
Ghulam Hussien Nasiri, a lawmaker, said the attack exposed the government’s weakness.
“Government leaders live behind heavily protected compounds, drive in armored vehicles and have their families living abroad, but we ordinary Afghans are suffering routinely,” he told Arab News.