Italy Presses Egypt to Help Find Who Killed Italian Student

February 8, 2016 Updated: February 8, 2016


ROME—Italy kept up its pressure on Egypt Monday to cooperate in finding who tortured and murdered an Italian student doing research in Cairo, insisting it wouldn’t accept convenient “truths” in the case.

“We won’t settle for purported truths, as we have said on the occasion of the two arrests initially linked to the death of Giulio Regeni,” Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni insisted in an interview published in La Repubblica newspaper.

“We want those who are really responsible to be found out, and be punished on the basis of law,” the minister said.

Gentiloni was referring to statements last week by some Egyptian authorities, later denied, that two suspects had been picked up for questioning in the case.

An Italian Justice Ministry undersecretary, Gennaro Migliore, had even sharper words for Egypt’s authorities as gruesome details emerged about the 28-year-old doctoral student’s brutal end.

Regeni’s “massacre is a very grave stain on a fundamentally authoritarian regime,” Migliore said.

The Cambridge University doctorate candidate had been living in Cairo for a few months, doing research into Egyptian labor movements and other social issues.

Regeni vanished on the evening of Jan. 25, as he traveled by subway after telling friends he was going to a birthday party. That date coincided with the anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian uprising. Egyptian security forces were out in force, intent on quashing any signs of protest.

Rights groups have accused Egyptian police of regularly torturing detainees, and in the past year, of detaining suspected activists or Islamists without ever reporting their arrests.

Egyptian authorities informed Italian authorities on Feb. 3 that Regeni’s body had been found along a highway on Cairo’s outskirts. At first, Egyptian officials blamed the death on a road accident.

After an initial autopsy performed by Egyptian authorities in Cairo, a second was performed Saturday in Rome after the body was flown from Egypt. The Italian autopsy found that Regeni had suffered extensive bruises and many fractures, and died after a neck vertebra was broken, perhaps by a heavy blow or a violent twisting of the head.

La Repubblica on Monday reported that the nails on all his toes and fingers had been ripped off, and that all his fingers had been broken.

Laboratory results of tissue and fluid samples are a key to understanding how much time elapsed between Regini’s death and the discover of his body. Those answers won’t be known for days.

Gentiloni described Cairo as a strategic partner, with a “fundamental” role in stabilizing the region. But he insisted Italy defends its citizens’ rights and ensures that justice is done when they are victims of crimes.

Italy needs Cairo to help in keeping northern Africa out of the hands of the Islamic State group, which has made steady gains in neighboring Libya. Italy, along with the United States, has been urging Libya’s rival governments to unite, to reduce the chaos gripping the oil-and-gas rich country since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed in 2011.