Regeni mother in hunger strike against 'unjust' arrest

ROME – Paola Deffendi, the mother of tortured and murdered Italian student, Giulio Regeni, began a hunger strike on Monday alongside the family lawyer, in retaliation to the arrest of Amal Fathy, the wife of an NGO director assisting in ongoing investigations in Cairo, according to a statement from the two women.

 Ms Deffendi and Alessandra Ballerini, the lawyer representing the Regeni family in their pursuit of truth surrounding the death of Giulio Regeni, made a call for public support.

 “We ask you to fast with us, until Amal is finally free,” the two women said.

 Ms Fathy, who is the wife of Mohamed Lotfy, director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), was arrested by police on May 11 under suspicion of terrorism. Although explanations remain unclear, the detention reportedly relates to a post that the Egyptian activist made on Facebook.

 In Egypt, the crime of terrorism “can lead to life imprisonment and the death penalty,” Ms Deffendi and Ms Ballerini added.

 Her seizure came three days after Egyptian and Italian public prosecutors announced that Cairo would begin operations on May 15 to recover CCTV footage from metro cameras connected to Guilio Regeni’s murder.

 These investigations would be carried out with the intention of reaching “definitive results on the killing of Regeni” in 2016, the prosecutors said.

 The Italian PhD student at Cambridge University had been carrying out research into the politically sensitive issue of street-seller unions in the Egyptian capital.

 Giulio Regeni went missing in Cairo on 25 Jan 2016 and his body was found nine days later, in a ditch on the road to Alexandria with clear indications that he had been tortured.

 “As women, we are particularly upset and concerned about the prolonged detention of Amal, wife of our legal consultant Lofty,” the women said in their statement.

 The announcement of the release of video recording arose as a pivotal moment in the quest for the truth, coming as an unexpected U-turn from Egyptian authorities.

 Cairo had previously resisted from handing over the underground footage, which Italy had been demanding since 3 Feb 2016, shortly after the death of the Fiumicello researcher.

 Yet, Ms Ballerini was wary of the growing edginess and tension amongst Egyptian authorities whilst progress begins to materialise towards cracking the unsolved case.

 “If this is the problem, if we are getting too close to the truth, we are willing to give up the videos, but immediately release Amal and leave her unharmed,” Ms Ballerini said as she prepared to start her hunger strike.

 “No one should ever again pay for our legitimate request for truth concerning Giulio’s disappearance, torture and murder,” the pair concluded in their Facebook statement.

 af