Egypt cheated all Italians, says family of Giulio Regeni

When the body of the Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni was found by the side of a Cairo highway in 2016, his mother later said she only recognised her son’s corpse by “the tip of his nose”, as he had suffered such extensive torture.

Almost five years after Regeni’s body was found, and following years of investigation by the Italian authorities, prosecutors in Rome on Thursday charged four men with Regeni’s kidnapping, including one accused of grievous bodily harm.

At a press conference to discuss the indictments, Regeni’s parents did not hold back from criticising their own government, who they said had failed to adequately pressure Egypt over their son’s murder.

Regeni’s parents have even asked the parliamentary commission of inquiry to clarify any responsibility of the Italian authorities.

“How is it that Giulio, an Italian citizen, was not saved in a country considered friendly, and which continues to maintain friendly relations?” asked Regeni’s mother, Paola Defendi.

“What are Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, doing for Giulio? And why have our relations with Egypt become increasingly friendly?”

For the many Italian and international observers of the case, the Regeni family have come to symbolise a broader fight for justice, not just for their son but for the thousands of Egyptians who have been “disappeared” and tortured at the hands of the country’s powerful security state.

Giulio Regeni was an Italian graduate of the University of Cambridge.
Giulio Regeni was an Italian graduate of the University of Cambridge. Photograph: Facebook

For Paola and Claudio, the tragedy of their son’s murder has been compounded by the Italian government’s inaction as well as its willingness to re-establish relations with Egypt. The murder upended Italian-Egyptian relations, leading Rome to withdraw its ambassador to Egypt in 2016 before appointing a new ambassador a year later.

“We request that our ambassador be recalled immediately for consultation,” said Paola. “Since the ambassador was sent back, there has been no progress in the case. Egypt should be designated an ‘unsafe country’ and we should block the sale of all weapons.”

Claudio Regeni, Giulio’s father, added that “one of the aims of recalling the ambassador was to seek truth and justice for our son, Giulio. Unfortunately, this plan fell through as priority was given to the normalisation of relations between Italy and Egypt and the development of shared economic, financial and military interests, as can been seen in the recent sale of warships and in tourism, avoiding conflict of any sort. Ambassador [Giampaolo] Cantini’s approach clearly demonstrates all of this.”

Prosecutors in Rome stood beside Giulio’s parents, and thanked them for “the tenacity with which they pursued their rights” during a parliamentary hearing.

With Thursday’s formal announcement of the conclusion of the investigation and the request to try four members of Egypt’s national security agency over Giulio’s kidnapping and murder, the Regeni case has come to a day of reckoning – a reckoning that Paola and Claudio have waited five years to achieve, amid attempts to lead the investigation astray, as well as obstructionism, on the part of the Egyptian authorities.

“In these five years, we have been overcome with indignation by the countless injustices on the part of the Egyptian authorities,” Giulio’s parents said in November. “They kidnapped, tortured and murdered a son, they sullied his reputation and discredited him, they lied and cheated not only us, his parents, but all Italians.”

Paola added: “We must reclaim our dignity so that no country can vilify another’s citizen while remaining not only ‘friendly’, but also unpunished. We owe this to Giulio and to all other men and women like him, as we continue to fight for truth and justice.”