Regeni trial begins in Rome, parents in courtroom

Four Egyptian security agents 'tried to avoid trial' - prosecutor

14 October, 15:30

    Giulio Regeni's parents arrive at the court in Rome for the trial of four Egyptian security agents over the 2016 murder of their son in Cairo Giulio Regeni's parents arrive at the court in Rome for the trial of four Egyptian security agents over the 2016 murder of their son in Cairo

    ROME - The trial in absentia of four Egyptian security agents over the 2016 kidnapping, torture and murder of Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni began this morning in Rome.

    In the courtroom, in front of the third court of assizes, were Regeni's parents Paola and Claudio and his sister Irene, who are plaintiffs in the case.

    Also present are state attorneys representing the prime minister's office, who have filed a petition to also stand as injured party in the case.

    Those on trial are Gen. Sabir Tariq, the colonels Usham Helmi and Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim, and Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif.
    The charges are, depending on the positions, of involvement in kidnapping with multiple aggravating circumstances, involvement in personal injury with aggravating circumstances, and involvement in homicide with aggravating circumstances.

    Taking part in the opening of the hearing on the absence in the courtroom of the four Egyptian security agents, Rome prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco said that since 2016 the defendants had tried to avoid standing trial in Italy.

    The prosecutor denounced "a complex action of the four defendants, and some of their colleagues, carried out since 2016 and which continued until recently, to block, slow down and avoid that the trial would take place in Italy. For five years they have been trying to avoid this", noting that "they are feigning ignorance".

    "Here we do not have conclusive evidence, a wiretap. However, there are at least 13 elements, " the prosecutor said, "that since 2016 until today, put together, show that the agents are trying to avoid standing trial. The question is: why are the defendants not here in this courtroom, are they unaware or feigning ignorance? Defendants have the right to receive all notifications regarding the trial but they must also choose their domicile. Egypt on this matter never responded. In general, out of the 64 rogatory letters sent to Cairo, 39 were not replied to. We have done everything we could to carry out this trial and I am convinced that today the four defendants know that the first hearing is being held."

    The Friuli-born student Giulio Regeni went missing in Cairo on January 25, 2016. The brutalised body of the Cambridge University doctoral researcher, who was working on the politically sensitive topic of Egyptian street unions, was found a week later, on February 3, 2016, in a ditch on the road to Alexandria. He had been tortured so badly his mother said she only recognised him by the tip of his nose.

    The first hearing is be devoted to procedural issues. Rome prosecutors say that Regeni, 28, was tortured for days, resulting in "acute physical suffering" by being subjected to kicks, punches, beaten with sticks and bats and cut with sharp objects, and also being burned with red-hot objects and slammed into walls.

    Egypt's prosecutor general, Hamada al Sawi, has said "there is insufficient evidence to prove the charges". At various times Egypt has advanced differing explanations for Regeni's death including a car accident, a gay lovers' tiff and abduction and murder by an alleged kidnapping gang that was wiped out after Regeni's documents were planted in their lair. The head of the street hawkers union had fingered Regeni as a possible spy. Lack of cooperation on the case by Egypt led to Rome's temporarily withdrawing its ambassador from Cairo for a spell.

    Lawyers for Regeni's family said they wanted the truth after years of cover-ups and defamation including an Egyptian film on Regeni against which they have issued a writ. The lawyers said that, as well as having "bones and teeth crushed", numbers were also carved into Regeni's body.

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