Egypt's Tourism Ministry holds memorial for slain Italian

AP News
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Posted: Mar 05, 2016 9:17 AM

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Tourism Ministry held a church memorial service on Saturday for Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, whose body was found with signs of torture more than a week after he went missing in Cairo.

"We are extremely keen to get to the bottom of what had happened to him," Tourism Minister Hesham Zazou said in a service that was only attended by about 15 people, mostly government employees, as well as reporters.

Zazou offered his condolences to Regeni's family "on behalf of - not only the tourism sector - but on behalf of the Egyptian people as well as the government."

Regeni's body was found on the outskirts of Cairo nine days after he vanished on Jan. 25, the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, when police were out in force across the capital.

He was not a tourist, but the incident has raised concerns about the safety of foreigners in Egypt, which has been struggling to bring tourists back since the 2011 uprising.

Regeni was in Cairo carrying out postgraduate research on organized labor, including street vendors and independent trade unions — which often engage in strikes and are a concern for the government. He had told friends he feared he was under surveillance after someone took his picture at a labor meeting.

Italian state TV said Italian investigators were told by a witness that two men -- apparently plainclothes police -- stopped Regeni and escorted him away as he left his apartment on Jan. 25.

Egypt's Interior Ministry has denied that security forces had anything to do with his disappearance and said last month that investigators believe "personal reasons" were behind his torture and murder.

Egyptian authorities under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi have waged crackdowns against Islamists, then left-wing activists and finally against broader dissent. Rights groups have documented hundreds of cases of forced disappearances of individuals who later turn up in police custody. The police deny the practice exists.

Rights groups say torture is a systematic practice in Egyptian detention facilities. But the torture and killing of Westerners in Egypt is virtually unheard of. The government says there have only been isolated incidents of torture and that it does not condone the practice.