Regeni trial begins with Egyptian defendants absent

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 ROME - The trial against four Egyptian National Security agents accused of torturing and murdering Italian student Giulio Regeni has been suspended due to a ruling by Judge Antonella Capri that the defendants have not been made aware of the case against them, say judicial sources. It will now go back to a preliminary court. The family's lawyer, Alessandra Ballerini, said the decision was "a setback, but we are not going to give up."

 The trial aims to expose the truth about the disappearance of the young researcher to his parents, Paola Deffendi and Claudio Regeni, and to the many across the country who have been watching the case, demanding “Truth for Giulio.”

 According to Chief Prosecutor of Rome, Michele Prestipino, and Prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco, the four Egyptians who are ‘guilty’ of Regeni’s death are General Sabir Tariq, Colonels Usham Helmi, Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim, and Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif. All are on trial for aggravated kidnapping, while Sharif has also been charged with complicity in aggravated personal injury and complicity in aggravated murder.

 The interrogations under torture allegedly took place inside “room 13” on the first floor of a 1950s villa in the center of Cairo, known for being one of the headquarters of the Egyptian NSA.

 One witness, who has been working in the Cairo service center for 15 years and whose identity remains protected, said that they saw Giulio inside the building during the time he was kidnapped, “handcuffed to the ground with signs of torture on the chest.”

 Despite the testimonies and investigations carried out by the Public Prosecutor's Office, the prosecutor and the Cairo government have never acknowledged the results of the Italian investigation and have been sustaining a filibuster for years. Moreover, the Egyptian government has repeatedly reiterated that the four defendants will not be made available to the Italian judiciary.

 In Dec. 2020 the Egyptian attorney general Hamada Al Sawi attacked the work of the Roman magistrates saying, “everything that the Italian authority has evoked on the four officers and NCOs in the Egyptian national security sector is based on false illogical conclusions.”

 The statement continued, “it is contrary to all international legal foundations and principles of law that require the presence of certain evidence against suspects. The Italian authorities made the connection between evidence and documents incorrectly.”

 Authorities in Egypt have also hypothesised that Giulio was being paid by British security services and real instigators of the murder were foreign intelligence elements who wanted to destabilize relations between Italy and Egypt or that the researcher was killed in a crime of passion.

 Given Egypt's position on the case over the last six years, there is little doubt the country will be unwilling to acknowldge the results of the trial against the four National Security agents, regardless of the outcome. However for the Regeni family and all those demanding justice, the completion of the trial is extremely important. In an interview with Il Fatto Quotidiano, the chairman of the ad hoc parliamentary inquiry commission, Erasmo Palazzotto, stated "civil society has shown that it is unwilling to overlook this."

 Giulio Regeni disappeared on Jan. 25 2015 and his mutilated body was found about a week later on Feb. 3 beside the desert motorway that connects Cairo to Alexandria.