Sunday 11 December 2016

Italian student's body found with signs of torture on outskirts of Cairo

Published 04/02/2016 | 11:46

A vehicle belonging to the Italian ambassador is parked outside Zeinhom morgue, where Giulio Regeni's body is being held. (AP)
A vehicle belonging to the Italian ambassador is parked outside Zeinhom morgue, where Giulio Regeni's body is being held. (AP)
Giulio Regeni went missing in Cairo on the fifth anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak

The body of a missing Italian student has been found with signs of torture, including multiple stab wounds and cigarette burns, on the outskirts of Cairo, an investigating prosecutor has said.

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Giulio Regeni, A 28-year-old graduate student , went missing in the Egyptian capital on January 25, the fifth anniversary of the uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

His body was found on Wednesday along the Cairo-Alexandria Road in the October 6 suburb in western Cairo and was positively identified by his roommate, said the prosecutor, Ahmed Nagi, who leads the investigation team on the case.

Mr Nagi said the cause of death was still under investigation but said "all of his body, including his face" had bruises, cuts from stabbings and burns from cigarettes. He said it appeared to have been a "slow death".

Another person with knowledge of the case told the AP that the body was "partially burned". An employee at Cairo's central morgue confirmed that Regeni's body was brought there.

Italy's Foreign Ministry said it has urgently summoned the Egyptian ambassador over the death of the student, seeking maximum cooperation in the investigation.

The ministry said in a statement on Thursday that Italy renewed its request to launch an immediate investigation and include Italian experts. The statement also requested that the body be returned to Italy as soon as possible.

The deputy head of criminal investigations in Cairo's twin province of Giza, Alaa Azmi, said Regeni's body was found on Wednesday morning with "bruises and cuts".

An initial investigation showed it was a road accident, he said, adding that the preliminary forensic report had not mentioned any burns.

"We have to wait for the full report by forensic experts. But what we know is that it is an accident," Mr Azmi said.

The University of Cambridge lists Regeni as a student of its Department of Politics and International Studies. Regeni's body was found following an online campaign searching for him after he went missing.

The Egyptian authorities had intensified a crackdown on dissent ahead of the January 25 anniversary, with police raiding apartments in downtown Cairo seeking signs of plans for organised protests and checking people's social media accounts.

Egypt has seen years of upheaval since Mubarak's ouster in 2011, ending with the election of former defence minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as president in 2014, after he led a 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi amid massive protests against his rule.

Following Morsi's ouster, el-Sissi launched one of the harshest crackdowns in years, jailing of thousands of Islamists and scores of liberal, pro-democracy activists.

In addition, Egypt has been battling a local Islamic State affiliate in the northern Sinai Peninsula, where Islamic militants stepped up attacks on security forces after the military ousted Morsi in 2013.

While mainly contained in northern Sinai, militants have carried out a series of attacks in more central parts of the country, including the bombing of the Italian Consulate in Cairo and the kidnapping and beheading of a Croatian oil surveyor who was working in the capital in August last year.

Regeni's disappearance and death came at a time when authorities and media close to the security services have often depicted foreigners as plotting against Egypt. At the same time, human rights groups have accused police of being behind the disappearances of Egyptian activists and suspected Islamists, a claim police have denied.

Before January 25, security officials said they had been gathering intelligence for months on young pro-democracy activists and foreigners.

News of Regeni's death also prompted Italy's economic development minister, Federica Guidi, to cut short a visit to Cairo and return home. Mr Guidi had been heading a delegation of 60 business people in Cairo, aimed at finding new areas of economic commerce and to help more Italian companies set up business in Egypt. Most of the delegation returned as well.

An Italian newspaper accused Egyptian security forces of being behind the killing.

"The strong suspicion is that Giulio Reggeni, the 28-year-old student who loved Egypt, was killed by Egypt ... by the system, by the security apparatus of an uncertain Egypt of today," read a page-one commentary from Il Sole 24 Ore, a business daily.

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