ROME (AP) — Egypt's president has promised that investigators will work "night and day" to locate and prosecute those responsible for the torture and death of an Italian student, insisting that the crime must not harm Egypt's financial and political relations with Italy.
In his first public comments about the case Wednesday, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi gave an interview to Italian daily La Repubblica and directed a message to the family of Giulio Regeni.
"I promise you that we will arrive at the truth, that we will work with Italian authorities to bring justice and punish the criminals who killed your son," he was quoted as saying.
Regeni went missing Jan. 25, the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising when police were deployed across Cairo. His body was found nine days later bearing signs of torture.
Italian officials have repeatedly complained of a lack of transparency from Cairo in the investigation amid media speculation that Regeni might have been victim of the widespread torture and secret detentions by police that have been denounced by rights activists.
Egyptian officials deny police were behind his death. Repubblica noted that during the course of the two-hour interview at the presidential palace, El-Sisi never once directly responded to questions about who might have been responsible.
Rather, El-Sissi repeatedly referred to Egypt's fight against terrorism and its economic woes and suggested that his opponents would have had an interest in harming Egypt's ties with Italy, its No. 1 trading partner in the EU.
"There are many questions we have to ask about the circumstances of Regeni's death," el-Sissi said, noting that Regeni's body was found while an Italian business delegation was visiting Egypt and just months after Italy's Eni oil company announced it was developing a huge natural gas field off Egypt.
El-Sissi said specialized investigators are working "night and day to discover the true causes and reveal the circumstances behind this terrible death. We will not stop until we have reached the truth about Giulio Regeni's death."
Rome's chief prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone arrived in Cairo on Monday to personally inquire about the probe, and el-Sissi said a delegation from the Cairo prosecutor's office would be in Rome in a few days to discuss improving coordination.
Pignatone told Corriere della Sera that the principal result of his mission was that no more suggestions would be made about Regeni's character and that there was an agreement for having the "maximum collaboration" between the two prosecutors' offices. But he said the "signs of torture discovered are much more serious than those revealed during the first exam in Egypt. In fact, the same Egyptian colleague had to recognize that the crime was of a savage ferocity."