Italy ups pressure on Egypt over student’s murder

Italy has upped its pressure on Egypt over slain student Giulio Regeni, warning it would not accept a "fabricated" account of the Italian's torture and murder from Egyptian prosecutors and police due in Rome on Wednesday.

Italy ups pressure on Egypt over student's murder
Paolo Gentiloni has warned that Italy will not accept a 'fabricated' account of Giulio Regeni's torture. Photo: John Thys/AFP

As Cairo confirmed the investigative team would fly to the Italian capital, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni warned of unspecified “proportionate” consequences if Rome's demands for greater transparency on Regeni's fate were not met.

Regeni, 28, and a PhD candidate at Cambridge University, was found dead outside Cairo on February 3rd, his body bearing the signs of torture which an autopsy concluded had been inflicted over several days.

On March 25, Cairo announced police had killed four members of a criminal gang specializing in abducting foreigners, and that they had found Regeni's passport in the apartment of a sister of one of the slain suspects.

That version of what happened to Regeni has been greeted with outraged scepticism in Italy, where there is a widespread suspicion that the murder was the work of elements in the security services. Cairo has rejected that theory as baseless.

Gentiloni reiterated that Italy regarded the kidnapping gang story as a “new attempt to give credence to a convenient truth” and said he would reject any attempt to have it accepted as “a conclusion to the investigation”.

Egypt responded tersely to those remarks. “We refrain from commenting on these statements which complicate the situation, particularly as they come one day prior to the arrival of the Egyptian investigators' team,” the foreign ministry in Cairo said in a statement.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Italy would not stop until it got “the truth, full stop. The real truth.

“We owe that to Giulio, his friends, his mother, father, his little sister and we owe it to all of us. We hope and we think Egypt can cooperate with our magistrates … we want, we want, we want the truth to the see the light of day.”

Close ties at risk

Gentiloni told Italian lawmakers that Rome was still waiting to receive Regeni's mobile phone records and CCTV images from the neighbourhood in which he was abducted. The minister also said Italy was seeking information on Regeni having “probably been placed under surveillance prior to his abduction.”

If these elements are not forthcoming, Gentiloni warned of damage to the usually close relations between the two countries.

“The government is ready to react by adopting immediate and proportionate measures,” he said, rejecting suggestions Italy could not afford a bust-up with a major trade and security partner.

“In the name of reasons of state, we will not accept a fabricated truth… and we will not allow the dignity of our country to be walked all over.”

Egypt's public prosecutor's office said the team headed for Rome would be led by deputy general prosecutor Mostafa Suleiman and would “present the results of the investigation conducted by the Egyptian general prosecution in the case so far”.

The delegation was initially due in Rome on Tuesday, but the trip was delayed for undisclosed reasons.

Barely recognizable

Regeni disappeared in central Cairo on January 25th, and his body was found nine days later on the side of a motorway. His mother later said his body had been so badly mutilated she could only recognize him by the tip of his nose.

Regeni had been researching labour movements in Egypt, a sensitive topic, and had written articles critical of the government under a pen name.

He disappeared on a day when Cairo was almost deserted and security tight as the country marked the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

Since the 2013 ouster of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, rights groups have accused Egypt's security services of carrying out illegal detentions, forced disappearances of activists and the torture of detainees.

Since Morsi's removal by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a police crackdown targeting Morsi's supporters has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands jailed.

Hundreds more have been sentenced to death, including Morsi himself.

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‘Treated like a dog’: Transgender woman sues over Italian police brutality

A Brazilian transgender woman brutally beaten by Italian police in an attack captured in a video that went viral is suing for torture and bodily harm, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

'Treated like a dog': Transgender woman sues over Italian police brutality

The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, meanwhile confirmed the officers would face disciplinary action over the incident last Thursday in the northern city, while prosecutors have opened an investigation.

In the graphic footage, three police officers can be seen circling the woman, hitting her on the head and ribs with their batons and spraying her in the face with pepper spray as she sits on the street, her hands in the air.

The woman was then forced to the ground, handcuffed and taken away.

Lawyer Debora Piazza told AFP her client, known only by the pseudonym Bruna, was then left injured in a locked patrol car for 20 minutes.

“In that time she had trouble breathing and thought she was dying,” she said.

The woman is suing for torture and bodily harm aggravated by abuse of public office and discrimination, Piazza said.

A Milan prosecutor confirmed to AFP that she was investigating the allegations of police brutality against “a 41-year-old Brazilian transgender woman”.

Piazza said her client was “not at all well, especially from a psychological point of view” after the attack.

Sala said Tuesday the officers would be disciplined while warning against “crucifying the police”.

Daniele Vincini, head of the SULPL police union, told Corriere della Sera newspaper the officers had not beaten the woman to hurt her.

The beatings were “to subdue her”, he said, claiming that she had been spitting blood in their faces and “they did what they could”.

Such overt police brutality is rare in Italy and the incident made headlines in the media for several days.

“I felt like I was treated like a dog,” Bruna herself told the Corriere della Sera daily after the attack.

“I put my hands up, I asked them not to hit me. I was so scared,” she said.