Joint statement: Regeni trial must continue despite Egypt’s failure to cooperate
The signatory organizations express profound concern at the recent developments in the trial of Egyptian officials over the torture and murder of Giulio Regeni. The trial must not be disrupted by the failure of Egyptian authorities to collaborate in the investigation.
The first court session in the trial against General Sabir Tariq, Colonels Athar Kamel and Mohamed Ibrahim, and Major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif in connection to the murder of Regeni began on October 14th, 2021. The hearing session was held at the Third Penal Court of Rome. All defendants are facing charges of aggravated kidnapping, while major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif is also accused of participating in grievous physical harm and grievous homicide.
The session concluded with the court’s decision to return the proceedings to a preliminary court because the defendants had not been notified of the charges. There is a concrete possibility – yet to be verified in court – that Egyptian authorities could have deliberately failed to notify the defendants.
Regeni, an Italian researcher at the University of Cambridge, was in Cairo in 2016 to conduct academic field research on the Egyptian street vendors union. He disappeared on January 25, and his lifeless body was found on the side of a road on February 3. An autopsy later revealed several evident signs of brutal torture.
Over the following six years since Regeni’s death, Egyptian authorities systematically refused to lead a transparent investigation into the crime.
However, despite such despicable efforts, the investigation led by Rome Prosecutors identified some of the people suspected to be involved in the murder. They eventually succeeded in collecting enough evidence to press charges against four officers of the NSA. An Italian court indicted them in May 2021.
Given the Egyptian authorities’ refusal to collaborate in the investigation, and the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty between the two countries, it has not been possible to physically bring the four defendants before the court, and the trial is to be held in absentia.
The first hearing session, however, concluded with the court’s decision to return the proceedings to a preliminary court because the defendants had not been notified of the charges. The Prosecution is therefore to take a new attempt to notify the defendants of the charges. This is because Italian Penal Procedure Law does not allow for a defendant to be tried in court without prior notification, a measure intended to guarantee the right to self-defense and to ensure the fairness of the trial.
There is a concrete possibility- yet to be verified in court- that Egyptian authorities could have deliberately failed to notify the defendants. In fact, the motivation provided for such failure was that the defendants’ residence is “unknown” to them- which appears hardly credible, since all defendants are officers of the National Security apparatus.
Many observers consider this trial is burlesque, albeit this comes as no surprise given the Egyptian authorities’ six-years-long refusal to collaborate with the investigation. Over the past years, Egyptian authorities presented different versions of Regeni’s murder. They have also made several speculations around the real reasons for his presence in Cairo and the researcher was variously depicted as a spy, a member of the British secret services, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, or the unfortunate victim of kidnapping by a street gang.
Egyptian security services also claimed they never surveilled the Italian researcher, but were eventually proven wrong when a video was leaked showing an unaware Giulio Regeni talking to the street vendors union’s representative Mohamed Abdallah – the same man who shot the video in order to report him to the NSA.
In consideration of these and other elements, it is hard to believe that Egyptian authorities could be in the dark about the defendants’ whereabouts and unable to inform them of the charges. Similarly, it is hard to accept that the trial of the officers charged with the murder of Regeni, held six years after his death, may be canceled due to a technicality.
EgyptWide and the signatory organizations call for this trial not to be negatively compromised by a procedural technicality, which Egyptian authorities are using to shelter themselves and their men from justice.
We call on:
- Prosecutor Colaiocco and the Prosecution office of Rome to adopt all the necessary steps to prevent any elements of penal procedure to be weaponized against the efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable, and to ensure Egypt’s cooperation on this case, in compliance with fair trial standards.
- The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, and Prime Minister Mario Draghi to make all the necessary diplomatic efforts to persuade their Egyptian counterparts to collaborate in Regeni’s case.
- All the members and former members of the Italian government who were summoned to testify in court in relation to the adequacy of the role of Italian institutions in pushing Egypt to collaborate in the investigation; we call on them to take their responsibilities for every insufficient or delayed efforts in ensuring the conditions for an independent and accurate investigation to shed light on Regeni’s kidnapping, torture and murder.
- The European Commission to resort to diplomacy, in accordance with the EU Parliament resolution of December 2002, to push Egypt to prioritize justice and monitor the trial’s proceedings and updates.
- All relevant Egyptian authorities to collaborate with the Prosecution of Rome in this investigation to ensure that justice is served, and that Giulio Regeni’s family may finally know the truth.
Bologna, October 20th, 2021
The Committee for Justice (CFJ)
Cultura è Libertà una campagna per la Palestina
Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
Intersection Association for rights and freedoms
Associazione Dottorandi e dottori di ricerca in Italia
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anto-violence Studies
Egyptian Human Rights Forum
Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
UPP – Un Ponte Per
Associazione per la Pace – Padova
Amnesty International – sezione italiana