Italy recalls envoy to Egypt over torture-slaying of student

AP News
Posted: Apr 08, 2016 4:03 PM
Italy recalls envoy to Egypt over torture-slaying of student

ROME (AP) — Keeping up its press for the "truth" in the torture and slaying of an Italian graduate student in Cairo, the Italian government on Friday announced it was recalling its ambassador from Egypt for urgent consultations after Italian prosecutors expressed disappointment over Egyptian cooperation.

Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni was recalling Ambassador Maurizio Massari from the Egyptian capital for "urgent evaluation of more opportune initiatives to relaunch the commitment aimed at determining the truth about the barbarous murder of Giulio Regeni," a ministry statement said.

The 28-year-old student, who was researching Egyptian labor movements, disappeared on Jan. 25, the fifth anniversary on the Egyptian uprising, when police and other Egyptian security personnel were out in force in Cairo to discourage protests. His body was found near a Cairo highway on Feb. 3.

Italian officials said an Italian autopsy found signs of "protracted" torture over several days, and that Regeni appears to have died on Feb. 1 or 2.

Premier Matteo Renzi told reporters that decision was made "immediately" after Italian prosecutors gave their assessment of two days of meetings that wrapped up Friday with visiting Egyptian investigators they had hoped would deliver useful evidence.

"Italy, as you know, made a commitment to the family of Giulio Regeni naturally, to the memory of Giulio Regeni, but also to the dignity of all us, saying we'd only stop in front of the truth," Renzi said. Recalling the ambassador to Rome "means Italy is confirming this commitment to itself, to the family," the premier said.

A statement from the Rome prosecutors' office said it was still pressing the Egyptians for turn over a list of Regeni's cellphone traffic "in very brief time."

The Italian news agency ANSA said the Egyptian investigators didn't bring to Rome the surveillance camera video from near the metro station where Regeni was last seen. Italian prosecutors, and Italian police who had gone to Cairo, had repeatedly requested the images.

For its part Italy turned over the results of the Italian autopsy and what was found on Regeni's computer, the Rome prosecutors' office said.

Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu-Zeid said the ministry "hasn't been officially notified of the recalling of the Italian ambassador to Egypt to Rome for consultation or the reasons behind it."

"The Foreign Ministry is waiting for the return of the Egyptian team to listen to its evaluation" of what came out of the two days of meetings between both sides' investigators, he said in a statement.

Italy has expressed mounting impatience with various Egyptian's attempts to explain Regeni's death, including a latest one blaming the slaying on a robbery gang.

The Rome prosecutors in their statement referred to that version, reiterating the "conviction that there are no elements indicating direct involvement by a band of criminals in the torture and death" of Regeni.

Egyptian authorities recently produced Regeni's passport and student IDs they said had been in the possession of a criminal gang they contend were abducting foreigners for robbery purposes. The gang members were killed in a shootout with Egyptian police, Egyptian authorities said.

Shortly after Regeni's body was found, Egyptian authorities attributed the death to a road accident.

The Italian ministry didn't suggest what other initiatives the government might take against Egypt, which is a big trading partner as well as an ally in anti-terrorism efforts. Italian energy company ENI has decades-long extensive dealings with Egypt.

Last week, Regeni's anguished parents urged the Italian government to declare Egypt "unsafe" for Italians to visit, saying their son was only one of many torture victims in the north African country. Egypt's Red Sea resorts for decades had been a popular destination for Italian tourists.

The head of the Italian Senate foreign affairs commission, Pier Ferdinando Casini, said recalling the ambassador not only had "high symbolic value," but also shows "Italy strongly defends its national decorum and dignity."


Maggie Michael contributed from Cairo.