Italian judge orders trial of four Egyptians over murder of Giulio Regeni

Paola and Claudio Regeni stand outside the courthouse with their lawyer Alessandra Ballerini holding a sign that reads “Truth for Giulio Regeni” before the pre-trial hearing to decide if four high-ranking Egyptian security officers should go on trial for the 2016 Cairo abduction, torture and killing of their son Giulio Regeni in Rome, Italy.

An Italian judge on Tuesday ordered four senior members of Egypt’s security services to stand trial over their suspected role in the disappearance and murder of student Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016.

Regeni, a postgraduate student at Britain’s Cambridge University, disappeared in the Egyptian capital in January 2016. His body was found almost a week later and a post-mortem examination showed he had been tortured before his death.

Italian prosecutors say their investigation showed that four Egyptian officials were responsible for the “aggravated kidnapping” of Regeni, while one of the four was also involved in a “conspiracy to commit aggravated murder”.

Presiding over a preliminary hearing, judge Pierluigi Balestrieri said there was sufficient evidence to indict the men and ordered that their trial start on October 14.

There was no immediate comment from Egypt. Egyptian police and officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in Regeni’s disappearance and killing.

Italian and Egyptian prosecutors investigated the case together, but the two sides later fell out and came to very different conclusions.

The four indicted men have been named in court documents as Major Magdi Sharif, from General Intelligence; Major General Tarek Sabir, the former head of state security; police Colonel Hisham Helmy; and Colonel Ather Kamal, a former head of investigations in the Cairo municipality.

Sharif was the only one of the four to face the murder charge.

Italian judicial sources have said their Egyptian counterparts have not supplied the addresses of the four officials and none of them are expected to attend the trial.

Court-appointed defence lawyers argued on Tuesday that the case should not continue because it was not certain that any of the suspects knew about the proceedings.

The judge overruled their objection, saying news of the investigation would have reached them regardless.

Regeni’s parents were in the courthouse on Tuesday and welcomed the judge’s decision, the family lawyer said.

“We hope that at least the right to the truth will not be denied Giulio. All the other rights were denied him,” Alessandra Ballerini told reporters.

Regeni had been in Cairo to research Egypt’s independent unions for his doctoral thesis. Associates say he was also interested in the long-standing domination of Egypt’s economy by the state and military. Both subjects are sensitive in Egypt.

Prosecutors say they have evidence showing that Sharif got informants to follow Regeni and eventually had him arrested. The charge sheet says Sharif, and other, unidentified Egyptian officials, then tortured Regeni over several days, causing him “acute physical suffering”.

Giving details from the autopsy, prosecutors say Regeni’s teeth were broken, while he also suffered multiple fractures to his shoulders, wrist, hands and feet. He was eventually killed by a blow to the neck.

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