Family denies Regeni was a spy

Egyptians question two neighbours of murdered researcher

(ANSA) - Rome, February 16 - The family of Giulio Regeni, an Italian student tortured to death in mysterious circumstances in Cairo, on Tuesday denied media reports he was a spy. Meanwhile, as Italian academics echoed their British counterparts with an open letter to the Italian government urging a search for the truth, Egyptian investigators questioned two neighbours of the murdered researcher.
    Egypt stressed that Italian investigators were actively taking part in "all phases" of the investigation into the death of Regeni, who was found in a ditch February 3 after disappearing January 25, the fifth anniversary of the uprising that toppled former longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.
    Cambridge University, where Regeni was a PhD student, meanwhile said he had taken all possible measures to protect his safety and had been using standard research methods.
    Regeni's family, speaking through a lawyer, said it "denies categorically and unequivocally that Giulio was an agent or collaborator of any secret service, Italian or foreign. "To try to push the theory that Giulio Regeni was a man at the service of intelligence means offending the memory of a young university student who had made field research a legitimate ambition of study and life." Italian media have speculated that Regeni may have been working for the Italian foreign intelligence service AISE.
    Egyptian police investigating Regeni's torture and death on Tuesday questioned two former neighbors of the victim. Italian investigators were also present. The two were questioned about reports that unidentified subjects showed up at the building Regeni lived in asking questions about him before his death.
    Egypt has repeatedly denied western media reports that Regeni was picked up on January 25 by two members of the Egyptian security services.
    Regeni was researching Egyptian labour movements for his doctoral thesis at Cambridge and also writing for the Rome leftwing daily il manifesto on them, under a pseudonym.
    It has been suggested that his contact with activists may have brought him to the attention of the Egyptian security apparatus.
    Italian academics on Tuesday wrote an open letter to the Italian government to try to make sure the truth emerges about Regeni's death.
    "We ask for the truth on Giulio Regeni's death to be established and we ask our government to intervene strongly in defence of academic freedom and the safety of researchers," said the letter, which echoed appeals from "all over the world".
    The appeal, which follows a similar one from the UK, started at the university of Brescia and quickly garnered almost 1,000 signatures from universities and research centres all over Italy.
    Regeni was found in a ditch on a desert road north of Cairo with signs of torture all over his body.
    Regeni, who was a visiting scholar at the American University in Cairo, was found with signs of torture including two clipped ears, a torn-out fingernail and toenail and cuts all over his body including on the soles of the feet.
    He had multiple fractures including reportedly a broken nose and also reportedly signs that he had been tortured with electrodes to his testicles.
    Regeni is thought to have been killed in an apartment in the centre of Cairo - the coup de grace being a violent blow to the back of his neck - before his body was dumped on the desert road from Cairo to Alexandria. Regeni took all possible "safety measures" while researching the Egyptian labour movement, said a spokesman at Cambridge University where the 28-year-old was a doctoral student.
    "Giulio Regeni was a respected academic and every safety measure was followed," the spokesman said.
    "The methods used in his work were standard research methods".
    The university reiterated its condolences for Regeni's death and "urged authorities to investigate this tragedy fully.
    Our thoughts are with Giulio's family, his friends and colleagues," the spokesman said. There was silence, on the other hand, at the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), the institute that Regeni worked at, where members were said to be feeling grief and irritation.
    Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in Middle Eastern issues, said he did not want to comment after the "inaccuracies" that have appeared in the Italian media.