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CRIME

Italy to send experts to Egypt for Regeni murder case

Egypt's prosecution said on Sunday it would allow Italy to send experts to try to retrieve video footage related to last January's kidnapping and murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni.

Italy to send experts to Egypt for Regeni murder case
An Amnesty International flashmob for Giulio Regeni. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

“The Egyptian public prosecutor approved the Italian side's request to send Italian experts,” to try to retrieve footage from CCTV cameras to help the probe into Regeni's death, a prosecution statement said.

The cameras are in a metro station Regeni is believed to have entered before being abducted.

Cairo also approved a request to send experts from “the only German  company specialized in retrieving data from the camera recording device” at that metro station, the statement said.

Egypt said the software needed to recover the deleted footage was expensive, and had asked Italy to help.

Regeni, a 28-year-old Cambridge University PhD student, disappeared last January 25th in central Cairo as police came out in force in anticipation of protests.

His body, bearing signs of torture, was later found by the side of a road. The prosecution service said in December it had questioned policemen who investigated Regeni days before his abduction.

There was no suggestion in the joint Egyptian-Italian statement that the policemen were under suspicion.

December's statement said prosecutors have also questioned officers who killed members of a criminal gang in March and claimed to have found Regeni's belongings, including his passport, in the home of the gang leader's wife.

That account met with suspicion in Italy, where politicians and the media have suggested that Egyptian police were behind the student's death.

The slow pace of the investigation prompted Italy to withdraw its ambassador  from Cairo.

Regeni had been researching street vendor trade unions, a sensitive political issue in Egypt, where successive governments have feared strikes and unrest.

Egypt has forcefully denied that its police were involved in his abduction.

Police officials at first suggested Regeni might have died in a road accident.
They have issued scant information about their investigation.

An Italian autopsy showed that Regeni's body was covered with cuts and his bones were broken, indicating he had been hit with “fists, batons and hammers”.

A letter “X” was carved on his forehead and hand, according to the report cited by Italian media.+++++++++

CRIME

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

Thirty years ago, the Sicilian mafia killed judge Giovanni Falcone with a bomb so powerful it was registered by experts monitoring volcanic tremors from Etna on the other side of the island.

Italy marks 30-year anniversary of anti-mafia judge murder

The explosion, which ripped through a stretch of motorway near Palermo at 5.56 pm on May 23rd 1992, sent shockwaves across Italy, but also signalled the start of the mafia’s decline.

Anti-mafia prosecuting magistrate Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort were killed.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend.

At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

The three policemen on board were killed instantly.

READ ALSO: Could body found on Italy’s Mount Etna help solve long-standing mafia mystery?

Falcone, whose wife was sitting beside him, had slowed seconds before the explosion and the car slammed into a concrete guard rail.

His chauffeur, who was sitting in the back, survived, as did the three agents in the convoy’s rear.

A “garden of memory” now stands on the site of the attack. Oil from olive trees that grow there is used by Sicilian churches for anointing children during baptisms and confirmations.

‘Mafia massacre’

Falcone posed a real threat to the Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by “The Godfather” trilogy and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

It was he who gathered evidence from the first mafia informants for a groundbreaking trial in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

And at the time of the attack, he headed the justice ministry’s criminal affairs department in Rome and was working on a package of anti-mafia laws.

His murder woke the nation up. The Repubblica daily attacked the “mafia massacre” in its headline the next day, with a photo of the famous moustachioed magistrate, while thousands of people in Palermo protested in the streets.

All eyes turned to fellow anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, Falcone’s close friend and colleague, who gave an interview at the start of July saying the “extreme danger” he was in would not stop him doing his job.

On July 19th, just 57 days after his friend, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Amid national outrage, the state threw everything it had at hunting down Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore (Toto) Riina, who was involved in dozens of murders during a reign of terror lasting over 20 years.

Riina was arrested on January 15th, 1993, in a car in Palermo.

The truth?

The murders of Falcone and Borsellino “in the long term turned out to be a very bad business for Cosa Nostra, whose management team was decapitated by arrests and informants’ confessions”, Vincenzo Ceruso, author of several books on the mafia, told AFP.

Dozens of people have been convicted for their roles in the assassinations.

But Roberto di Bella, now an anti-mafia judge at the Catania juvenile court in Sicily, said that while “the majority of the perpetrators have been tried and convicted”, there remained “a part that is still not clear”.

Survivors insist there are still bits of the puzzle missing and point to Falcone’s belief there could be “possible points of convergence between the leaders of Cosa Nostra and the shadowy centres of power”.

“We still don’t have the truth about who really ordered the murder of Giovanni Falcone, because I don’t believe that ignorant people like Toto Riina could have organised an attack as sophisticated as that in Capaci,” Angelo Corbo, one of the surviving bodyguards, said in a documentary.

He said he was not alone in believing there were “men in suits and ties” among the mobsters.

However, an investigation into possible “hidden orchestrators” of the Capaci attack was thrown out in 2013.

“There is no evidence of the existence of external backers. There is no doubt that these are mafia acts,” author Ceruso said.

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