>>>ANSA/ 4 Egypt spies could face trial over Regeni murder

Friuli-born Cambridge student tortured to death in early 2016

(ANSA) - ROME, DEC 10 - Rome prosecutors said Thursday they had completed their probe into the 2016 abduction, torture and murder in Cairo of Italian student Giulio Regeni and were ready to file charges against four out of five Egyptian intelligence service members relating to the case.
    The prosecutors sent notification of the closure of the probe to the four while they asked for the case to be shelved against the fifth.
    Completion of a probe in Italy normally precedes a request to indict.
    Possible charges are, variously, multi-aggravated abduction of a person, complicity in aggravated murder and complicity in grievous bodily harm.
    The four who risk trial are General Tariq Sabir and three subordinates: Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim, Uhsam Helmi, and Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif.
    The latter is accused of grievous bodily harm and actually murdering Cambridge doctoral researcher Regeni.
    Sharif would have been facing possible torture charges if the case had taken place after that crime was introduced into Italian criminal law, in July 2017.
    The shelving of the case against Mahmoud Najem, the fifth spy, was requested due to insufficient evidence to support the case against him.
    The Rome prosecutors said Regeni was tortured for days, resulting in "acute physical suffering" by being subjected to kicks, punches, beaten with sticks and bats and cut with sharp objects, and also being burned with red-hot objects and slammed into walls.
    He suffered "the permanent loss of multiple organs" in the torture, they said, also suffering "numerous traumatic lesions to the head, face, back and lower limbs".
    One of five witnesses told prosecutors "I saw Giulio handcuffed on the floor with signs of torture on his chest," Rome assistant prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco told the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the case.
    The communication of the end of the probe was made to court-appointed Italian lawyers, since the Egyptian security service members have not stood as possible suspects in the case, and may be tried in absentia in Italy.
    The lawyers and their clients now have 20 days to present evidence for their defence and eventual requests to be interviewed by investigators.
    Rome prosecutors told their Egyptian counterparts on November 30 they were ready to wrap up the probe and were set to charge members of Egypt's security apparatus.
    The Rome prosecutors said they had the necessary proof and witness statements against the secret service members accused of abducting Regeni in January 2016.
    Egyptian prosecutors said they did not agree with their Roman colleagues, who are led by Michele Prestipino.
    Egypt's prosecutor general, Hamada al Sawi, said "there is insufficient evidence to prove the charges".
    Regeni's parents, Paola and Claudio, said they "noted the umpteenth fruitless meeting between the two prosecutor's offices".
    They said "the paths of the two sets of prosecutors have never been so divided.
    "In these years we have suffered wounds and outrages of all kinds from the Egyptian side, they have abducted, tortured and killed our son, they have thrown mud and discredit on him, they have lied, insulted and deceived not only us but the whole country".
    Witnesses have told the Rome prosecutors that Regeni was picked up by members of the Egyptian security services.
    The witnesses, deemed reliable by the prosecutors, say the 28-year-old Cambridge doctoral researcher was abducted by agents of the Egyptian National Security Agency on January 25, 2016, the heavily policed fifth anniversary of the uprising that ousted former strongman Hosni Mubarak, and taken to at least two barracks in the subsequent hours.
    The young man from Friuli was seen in a barracks near the Dokki metro stop, where he was previously last seen, the witnesses said, and later at another barracks where young foreigners are usually taken.
    Rome prosecutors told their Cairo counterparts about these witness statements, but the Egyptian magistrates rejected the statements as allegedly unreliable.
    Regeni was found dead in a ditch on the Cairo-Alexandria highway on February 3, 2016, a week after disappearing on the Cairo metro. He had been tortured so badly that his mother said she only recognised him by the tip of his nose.
    At various times Egypt has advanced differing explanations for his death including a car accident, a gay lovers' tiff and abduction and murder by an alleged kidnapping gang that was wiped out after Regeni's documents were planted in their lair.
    The student was researching Cairo street sellers unions for the British university, a politically sensitive subject.
    The head of the street hawkers union had fingered Regeni as a spy.
    Lack of cooperation on the case by Egypt led to Rome's temporarily withdrawing its ambassador from Cairo.
    Rome recently drew condemnation from Regeni's parents by announcing the sale of two frigates to Egypt.
    Premier Giuseppe Conte said the deal was on a separate level from cooperation on the Regeni case.
    Ex-premier Matteo Renzi, who was in office when Regeni died, has called for Italy to send a special envoy to Egypt to urge the Sisi regime to enable the trial of the secret service members.
    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has repeatedly promised to help Italy get to the truth about the murder.
    Amnesty International says Regeni is just one of countless critics of the regime to be 'disappeared' every year.
    Prestipino, the lead Rome prosecutor, on Thursday thanked the Regeni family for its "tenacity" in pursuing the truth about their son's murder.
    "I thank the family which pursued its cause with tenacity," Prestipino told the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the case.
    Prestipino's assistant, Colaiocco, told the panel that the "action of defensive investigation" deployed by the family's lawyer, Alessandra Ballerini, "was decisive".
    Ballerini said at a press conference at the Lower House Thursday that "human rights are not negotiable with oil, weapons and money. And that is shown by the Regeni family. We shall want the same firmness and abnegation on the part of those who govern us, so that they prove that justice is not to be bartered away. That is a starting point, it has taken five years (to achieve it)." Regeni's mother Paola Deffendi said "no one would have thought we would get where we are today. Today is an important stage for Italian democracy and for Egypt. Nothing will stop us. Our family fight has become a fight of civilisation for human rights, which is as if Giulio were acting himself. Giulio has become a mirror that shines all over the world, showing how human rights are violated in Egypt every day".
    Deffendi said "we ask the commission of inquiry to clear up Italian responsibilities, we refer to all those grey areas. What happened in the Italian institutions from that January 25 to February 3? How come Giulio, an Italian citizen, was not saved in a country that was friendly and which continues to be friendly?" She said that otherwise, "all the Italians who go abroad may well say they do not feel safe".
    She added, on her video link with the House press conference: "The 'good' media should work on Egypt, should recount Egypt, and that way we will help the Egyptian people too. Carry out investigative journalism, ask politicians 'what are you doing, what is Premier Conte doing for the truth about Giulio? And Foreign Minister Di Maio? Bilateral relations with Egypt have become ever more a friendship".
    Regeni's father Claudio called for Italy to again withdraw its ambassador from Cairo, saying that the two countries had recently seen a "normalisation of relations and the development of mutual interests in the economic, financial and military fields, as shown by the recent sale of the frigates, and in tourism, avoiding any clash".
    He said the search for the truth of his son's death had been placed "on a secondary level" with respect to these interests.
    (ANSA).
   

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