In News & Reports

By MadaMasr –

An Italian judge asked the Italian government on Monday to intervene to move forward with the trial of four Egyptian security officers accused of the 2016 kidnap and murder of Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni in 2016, after the trial met a setback in October, according to the Italian ANSA news agency.

The four accused, two of whom were members of the National Security Agency at the time of Regeni’s killing, and two of whom were employed by the police force, were referred to a criminal trial in absentia in May, before the court decided in October that it could not proceed with the case, as it was unable to establish if the accused had been officially notified of the indictment.

As a result, the case was returned to a preliminary hearings judge.

In a hearing on Monday, the judge sent the case documents to the Italian government to verify if Egyptian authorities had responded to warrants sent in April 2019 and to see if there was room for dialogue with Cairo on this matter, according to ANSA.

A special investigations team of the Carabinieri — a police force with a military statute, operating jointly under Italy’s ministries of interior and defense — will lead an investigation to acquire the addresses of the four defendants. 

The preliminary judge also set a court date for April 11 to hear the outcome of his requests.

According to Italian law, defendants must be notified of the completion of investigations, the charges leveled against them and all the evidence put forward before being summoned to trial. 

Italian sources told Mada Masr before the defendants were referred to court that the case could be derailed if Egyptian investigation authorities do not cooperate by providing the Italian side with the places of residence of the accused. This has been the path Egyptian authorities have followed, according to Italian judicial sources who spoke to Reuters in May.

The Italian prosecution has charged four Egyptian officials — Major General Tarek Saber, a senior official at the National Security Agency at the time of Regeni’s death who retired in 2017; Major Magdy Sharif, who also served at the NSA where he was in charge of the team that placed Regeni under surveillance; Colonel Hesham Helmy, who served at a security center in charge of policing the Cairo district where Regeni lived; and Colonel Asser Kamal, who was the head of a local policing unit— with the “aggravated kidnapping” of Regeni, and one of the four, Sharif, for “conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.” The Egyptian Public Prosecution has dismissed the charges and discontinued investigations into the incident. 

Rome continued to pursue the case, however, announcing in April that it obtained new testimonies proving that the four defendants planned to mislead the investigations into Regeni’s murder by framing five Egyptian citizens.

In December, two months after the criminal trial was suspended, an Italian parliamentary committee officially accused Egyptian security services, in particular the National Security Agency and the four defendants, of being responsible for Regeni’s murder, calling on the Egyptian side to “bear its responsibilities.”

Regeni, a PhD candidate at Cambridge University who was researching independent trade unions in Egypt, disappeared from a metro station on January 25, 2016 — the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution — while on his way to meet a friend in downtown Cairo. His body was found on February 3 on the side of a highway on the outskirts of the city, bearing marks of severe torture.
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