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Egypt security officials suspected of torturing Regeni set to face trial

Candlelight procession for Italian student Giulio Regeni who was murdered in Egypt [Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency]
Candlelight procession for Italian student Giulio Regeni who was murdered in Egypt, 3 July 2020 [Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency]

Egyptian security forces suspected of torturing and murdering Giulio Regeni are set to face trial in Italy, reports the Times.

In 2016, on the fifth anniversary of the Egyptian uprising, the 28-year-old Italian PhD student was tortured to death after being accused of being a spy for conducting research into trade unions in the country.

His body was dumped on the Cairo-Alexandria highway and discovered by a passing driver.

Since his body was found bearing all the hallmarks of torture known to be inflicted on political prisoners, top security agencies have been suspected of murdering him.

An autopsy showed that his teeth, neck, wrists, toes and fingers were broken and his body suffered burns and bruising. Letters were carved into his skin.

Italian magistrates have been investigating five officials suspected of their involvement. These suspects include Major General Khaled Shalabi, who is currently assistant interior minister for North Upper Egypt, and Major General Tariq Saber, who at the time worked as director at the national security agency.

One of the suspects is Major Magdy Sharif, an official with Egypt's national security agency, who admitted to punching Regeni several times on the assumption he was a British spy.

READ: Biden aide Blinken voices concern about rights group in Egypt

An Italian investigative source told the Times that it was likely Rome would request a trial for some of the five suspects: "It is very probable that Sharif will go to trial."

"Other evidence gathered which has not yet been revealed will come out at trial," the source said.

"Officially the trial can proceed only if the accused is aware of it, but if we can prove to the judge that the communication between Italy and Egypt, as well as news coverage, has cited Sharif numerous times, the judge can decide the lack of response is a tactic and can proceed with the trial," the source said.

Under Italian law, magistrates must send the suspects the evidence against them before they ask a judge to authorise a trial, but requests for their contact details have been ignored since April 2019.

Egypt has been regularly criticised for failing to cooperate with the trial and the suspects may be tried in absentia. Italy does not have an extradition treaty with Egypt for convictions.

Italy has been criticised for continuing to secure huge arms and trade deals with Egypt despite Regeni's family repeatedly calling on authorities to cool relations until the murder is solved.

In 2019 Egypt purchased three times more weapons, spare parts and military software from Italy compared to the year before, which commentators said was to soften the Regeni investigation.

As Sisi's regime has become more and more repressive, criticism has grown, which is predicted to become even bolder following the defeat of US President Donald Trump.

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