Regeni's Cambridge tutor home, office searched

PC, pendrive, hard disk, cellphone seized

(ANSA) - Rome, January 10 - The home and office of Giulio Regeni's Cambridge supervisor Dr Maha Abdelrahman were searched Wednesday in a probe into the Italian researcher's torture and murder in Egypt early in 2016. Rome prosecutors seized a PC, pen drive, hard disk and cellphone. Dr Abdelrahman told police Regeni had freely chosen his PhD subject, sources said later.
    "It was his free choice", she reportedly said.
    The search was authorised after the lecturer was questioned by prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco and special police units in collaboration with UK authorities.
    "The IT material and the documents obtained will be useful to clear up, once and for all, the role of the professor in the matters being probed," prosecutors said.
    The lecturer remains a person with information on the case, and is not under investigation, they said.
    A statement from Rome prosecutors said that "thanks to the full and active collaboration with UK authorities, Cambridgeshire and Italian investigators proceeded to carry out the investigative activities requested by Italian judicial authorities in last October's European investigation warrant".
    They said that Dr Abdelrahman "agreed to answer all questions put by British investigators, confirming statements already rendered".
    Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano announced last month that Dr Abdelrahman would be questioned.
    "The British judge has accepted the European investigation warrant and that the Cambridge professor can be questioned," he said after meeting British counterpart Boris Johnson.
    Alfano called it a "significant development, a significant step forward".
    The Cambridge police are identifying and questioning students who went to Egypt to do research or study before Regeni, the Rome prosecutor's office said.
    The office confirmed that British authorities were providing the utmost collaboration with the probe.
    Abdelrahman reportedly failed to meet a summons to appear before Italian prosecutors in June.
    The encounter at a Cambridge police station was first set for 9.00 on June 7, then postponed to 16:00 on the same day, and then to June 8, but the professor did not turn up, well-informed sources said on November 3.
    After the report, a Cambridge University spokesperson told ANSA that Abdelrahman "has repeatedly expressed her willingness to fully cooperate with the Italian prosecutors".
    Rome prosecutors sent a new formal petition to the British authorities in October to be able to question Abdelrahman, La Repubblica said.
    The Rome-based daily reported that the prosecutors also want to acquire the professor's mobile and fixed-line phone records from between January 2015 and February 28 2016 to reconstruct her network of relations.
    The move regards alleged ambiguity and omissions by the woman in relation to the probe into the torture and murder of the 28-year-old Italian post-graduate student in Cairo, La Repubblica wrote in an article entitled 'The Lies of Cambridge'.
    Rome prosecutors reportedly want clarification on several aspects of the case, the newspaper said.
    These regard how the subject of Regeni's research on street trader unions was chosen, the selection of his tutor in Egypt, the research method used, who decided what questions to ask the traders and whether Regeni gave the results of his research to Professor Abdelrahman during a meeting in Cairo on January 7, 2016.
    Rome prosecutors have also asked the British judicial authorities to identify all of the Cambridge University students working under Abdelrahman who were sent to Cairo between 2012 and 2015, sources said on Thursday.
    The petition requests that those students be questioned in the presence of Italian investigators.
    The investigators want to know whether there were other cases like Regeni's in which students were asked to research the independent unions in Egypt.
    Regeni was asked to look into this by his tutor even though his PhD regarded the general subject of the North African nation's economic development.
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said last month that Egypt would give Italian prosecutors CCTV footage from the metro the day Regeni disappeared.
    "As soon as the European company we have tasked with recovering the images shot by the Cairo underground cameras has done so, our commitment will be to provide them to Italian investigators," he said.
    Shoukry added, however, that a final decision was down to the "prosecutor who is independent and will decide on the merits of the case".
    In November Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi said he wants to "find those guilty" for the death of Friuli-born Regeni.
    Sisi said he believes the murder was an attempt to frustrate Italian investment in Egypt.
    "We are working in a very transparent way with the Italian authorities," he said.
    Sisi said Italian-Egyptian relations are among the best, despite the fact that they were hit hard by the Regeni case.
    Egypt has previously given several explanations for Regeni's death including a car accident, a gay lovers' tiff turned ugly and murder by an alleged kidnapping gang, later wiped out by police - all of them rejected by Italy.
    The probe is reportedly now focusing on a number of Egyptian policemen.