An Italian parliamentary delegation is to travel to Cambridge this week to hold talks with the university over the 2016 death of the postgraduate student Giulio Regeni, who was abducted and killed in Cairo while researching Egyptian trade unions.
Four senior members of Egypt’s powerful security services were last year charged by a Rome judge over their suspected role in the disappearance and murder of the 28-year-old Italian. The trial will take place in absentia after the Egyptian state refused to recognise the Italian legal process or extradite the four suspects.
“We are not here to investigate Cambridge,” Erasmo Palazzotto, the president of the parliamentary inquiry commission, told the Guardian. “We all know those responsible for Giulio’s abduction, torture and murder are in Egypt.
“We are here because we believe their help is needed. We have been in contact with the representatives of the university for a few months, and they have shown us their willingness to collaborate. We need them to help us find answers to some of unanswered questions.”
The delegationwill hear from representatives of the university, including the dean, and has also scheduled meetings with professors with expertise on the Middle East with whom Regeni had collaborated.
The delegation also requested to speak with Dr Maha Abdelrahman, who was Regeni’s supervisor. In February 2020, the chief prosecutor of Rome, Michele Prestipino, had said it was a “mystery” that she had not collaborated with the investigation after the first formal contact.
Those close to Abdelrahman, who took a leave of absence from teaching after Regeni’s murder, say she was deeply shaken by the student’s death. A number of academics worldwide united in defence of Abdelrahman, rejecting allegations that she commissioned Regeni to research a topic she knew was dangerous and that he was reluctant to pursue.
“Her reluctance to collaborate with the Italian prosecutors was a problem for the investigation,” Palazzotto said. “I hope she agrees to speak with us. I hope she helps us understand what happened, explains why she decided not to collaborate with the Italian authorities.”
The parliamentarians plan to meet representatives of the British government and the Foreign Office on Wednesday to discuss the Regeni case.
“It’s important to involve the British government,” says Palazzotto. “The death of Giulio has shown that the Egyptian regime does not spare Europeans from violence, to whom it reserves the brutal treatment that its citizens suffer every day. No one is safe from the violence of the Egyptian dictatorship. And the European and British governments cannot continue to have friendly and economic relations with a man like [President Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi, pretending not to see what is happening in that country.’’
Several European countries, including Italy, have indulged the Egyptian president and his regime with weapons sales and state visits. Last year, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, presented Sisi with the Légion d’honneur, the French state’s highest honour.
On 3 October, the work of the parliamentary commission will close. The content of the hearings with the Cambridge representatives will be released publicly in two weeks’ time.