'Shameful campaign' agst Regeni tutor says uni head

'Fanned by political expediency'

(ANSA) - London, January 17 - The university of Cambridge on Wednesday denounced what it said was a "shameful campaign of denigration, fanned by political expediency" against Giulio Regeni's former supervisor, Dr Maha Abdelrahman. It said this came against the background of "an apparent absence of investigative progress". In a statement, Vice-Chancellor Stephen J. Toope reiterated Abdelrahmand's intention to collaborate fully with the probe into the Italian student's torture and murder in Cairo in early 2016. But he deplored leaks from the probe.
    In his statement, Toope said "It has been almost two years since the murder of Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge student, in Cairo. As we approach this anniversary, we are no nearer to knowing the truth of what happened to this promising post-graduate, tortured and killed while pursuing wholly legitimate academic research. Once again, we recognise the deep pain experienced by Giulio's family, which nothing can relieve.
    "In our community, the sense of hurt and outrage has not abated. His murder was an affront to all of us. It remains an affront to the values of openness, freedom of thought and freedom of academic enquiry that our University stands for. The heinous manner of Giulio's death has diminished us all.
    "It has been especially troubling to note that, in the absence of apparent progress in investigations into Giulio's death, attention has been turned to his doctoral supervisor, Dr Maha Abdelrahman - an honourable and distinguished scholar.
    "An investigation led by Italian authorities, with the help of Cambridgeshire police, is underway. As Giulio's supervisor, Dr Abdelrahman is a witness in this investigation, and has cooperated fully.
    "It is very disturbing, therefore, to find that she has been the victim of seemingly concerted efforts to implicate her directly in Giulio's death.
    "Public speculation about Dr Abdelrahman's involvement in the case has been inaccurate, damaging and potentially dangerous. It stems from a fundamental misapprehension about the nature of academic research. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of scholarly aims and methods. It shows a failure to understand the intellectual relationship between a PhD student and his or her supervisor.
    "It is not uncommon for academic research in the humanities and social sciences to impinge on politically sensitive issues.
    Giulio was an experienced researcher, who had already spent time in Egypt, and was a fluent Arabic speaker. He was using standard academic methods to study trade unions in Egypt.
    "Since Giulio's death was confirmed in February 2016, Dr Abdelrahman and the University of Cambridge have repeatedly expressed their willingness to cooperate with the investigation.
    Last week, Dr Abdelrahman welcomed the opportunity to speak again to Italian investigators in Cambridge - the third time she has answered their questions - and voluntarily handed over material requested by them.
    "In light of her willingness to assist, the public campaign of denigration, fanned by political expediency, is shameful.
    "The University has sought all opportunities - public and private, formal and informal - to push for progress in the investigation into Giulio's death. It has urged Egyptian, Italian and British authorities to pursue all avenues of investigation to arrive at the truth.
    "Throughout, the University has been respectful of legal constraints (including on the ability to comment publicly) posed by the continuing legal process. It has been particularly disappointing, then, to see that the same restraint has not applied in other domains, where the confidentiality of the legal process has been blatantly ignored.
    "The University will of course continue to assist authorities as they seek justice for Giulio and his family. It will also defend the right of academics to engage in legitimate and lawful research, wherever they wish to do so.
    "As well as doing everything it can to ensure that the death of one of its students is redressed, the University of Cambridge is committed to ensuring that the reputation and wellbeing of its scholars are always safeguarded.
    "This brutal killing calls for justice. But justice will not be served by undermining the very thing that drove Giulio in his brief but inspiring academic career - the search for truth.
    On January 11 the British university said it was planning to set up a scholarship in the name of Regeni, who was doing research for his Cambridge PhD, university press office spokesman Angel Gurria told ANSA.
    Gurria said the university was working on the initiative to honour the PhD student who was doing research on Egyptian streetseller trade unions when he was abducted two years ago.
    Regeni's former supervisor, Dr Abdelrahman, is "fully cooperating" with Rome prosecutors in their probe into his death, the university told ANSA in a statement.
    Dr Abdelrahman answered "all the questions" put to her by the prosecutors on January 9, and said she had "voluntarily handed over the documents requested" when her home and office were searched on January 10.
    The university said it, too, would fully cooperate with the probe.
    The university had been criticised in Italy for allegedly being tight-lipped on the case.
    Italian media also reported that Abdelrahman's files were seized because she had again failed to answer questions.
    Regeni was abducted on January 25, 2016, the heavily policed fifth anniversary of the uprising that toppled former strongman Hosni Mubarak.
    His tortured body was found on the road to Alexandria on February 3.
    Egyptian security forces, who are frequently accused of brutally repressing opponents, have said they had no part in the death of the Friuli-born researcher, whose work on trade unions was politically sensitive.
    In the search of Dr Abdelrahman's home and office, Rome prosecutors seized a PC, pen drive, hard disk and cellphone.
    Dr Abdelrahman reportedly told the prosecutors Regeni had freely chosen his PhD subject.
   

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