The prime ministers of Italy and Britain have used their meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on the sidelines of the COP27 climate summit in Sharm El Sheikh to raise human rights issues related to their respective nationals.
The Office of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Monday that she told Sisi that Rome is paying "strong attention" to two cases: Giulio Regeni was an Italian doctorate student who was abducted, tortured and murdered in Cairo in early 2016; and Patric Zaki, an Egyptian student at Bologna University, has been charged with subversion in Egypt and held since February 2020.
Relations between Rome and Cairo have been strained since Regeni's murder, and tension heightened following Zaki's arrest while on holiday in Egypt. Italy has charged four Egyptian security officials with Regeni's disappearance and killing, but they have not yet been tried. In fact, their trial has been suspended after a Rome court ruled that it could not go ahead because the defendants had not been notified of its existence.
"The meeting dealt with the issue of the Italian student Regeni and cooperation to reach the truth and achieve justice," explained an official spokesman for the Egyptian presidency after Sisi's meeting with Meloni. "They also talked about energy supplies, renewable sources, the climate crisis and migration."
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The Italian newspaper La Republica said that it is clear that, "Sisi is taking a step forward in the relationship with Rome, without any concessions on human rights issues and the Regeni issue."
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, said that he hoped to discuss the case of the Egyptian-British detainee Alaa Abdel Fattah during his meeting with Sisi. The detainee has been on hunger strike for nearly 200 days.
"I hope to see President Sisi later today, then I will raise this issue of course," Sunak told reporters on Monday. "It is something that not only the UK would like to see resolved, but many other countries as well."
More than 100 world leaders gathered in Sharm El Sheikh on Monday for the start of the two-week climate talks against a backdrop of war in Ukraine, economic downturn, rampant inflation and a European energy crisis.