Occupation: Phd student
Age: 28

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Giulio Regeni

Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old Cambridge PhD student from Italy, was on his way to see a friend when he left his flat near Behoos metro station in Cairo on 25 January.

Giulio, by all accounts, was a gifted young man. He spoke five languages – Italian, English, Spanish, Arabic, and German – and was considered a fine writer and hard worker.

That day marked the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Egyptian revolution which overthrew Hosni Mubarak, It was also the last day Regeni was seen alive.


Nine days later – and days after the Italian foreign ministry announced that it was concerned about his mysterious disappearance – Regeni’s body was found in a ditch near a desert highway between Cairo and Alexandria. An examination of his body in Rome concluded that he was tortured before his death: he was burned, beaten, and mutilated. His nails had been ripped out and he suffered from broken ribs and a brain haemorrhage.


Regeni’s murder bears all the hallmarks of an extrajudicial killing by the state’s security police, who are believed to be behind the death of 474 Egyptians in 2015 alone.


But Regeni’s case stands out amid the catalogue of horrors: his murder is the first time such an act has happened to a foreign academic researcher working in Cairo, the kind of person who could have expected to be harassed or even deported for his work, but who would have been considered physically “protected” by his passport.


In Italy, newspaper reports speculate about why Regeni was killed, including theories that have examined the sensitive research he was conducting into labour unions in Egypt, the contacts he was making, and even the journalism he did on the side – using a pseudonym – for a communist newspaper in Italy called Il Manifesto that was critical of the Egyptian government.

The case has become a diplomatic problem between two countries with deep economic, business, and defense ties. But there is no evidence that – beyond some rhetoric – Italy is prepared to put real pressure on Egypt.

On the day that he went missing, he was reportedly on his way to meet a friend named Gennaro Gervasio, a lecturer in the department of political science at the British University in Cairo (BUE), at a restaurant near Tahrir Square. Gervasio declined to speak to the Guardian.

A source at the American University in Cairo named three people who have studied labour relations in Egypt – a sensitive topic – and were subsequently detained, deported or barred from re-entering the country since 2011.

 

Such investigations into Regeni’s life and personal relations have added to speculation that his contact with activists involved in the labour movement made him a target, and have also added to pressure on his close friends to avoid talking to the media, likely fearing for their own safety.

 

Civil society groups hold little hope that a fair investigation will be carried out. “[The case] will be investigated but it’s highly unlikely that the government will prosecute one of their own,” said Hussein Baoumi, of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.

 

In November 2018, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Italy for a Libya conference in Palermo, the first visit since the disappearance murder of of Italian postgraduate student Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016.

 

The case had strained ties between Egypt and Italy, which recalled its ambassador over the case. Relations were restored in August, 2017 when Rome said it would return its envoy to Cairo and continue to search for Regeni’s killers.

 

The most important business relationship centres on Italy’s state-backed energy group Eni, which last year announced the discovery of a giant natural gas field in Egypt.

 

Perhaps more importantly, Italy would rely on Egypt’s political support in the event of a possible military intervention in Libya.

 

Edits:

 

Giulio Regeni

Age: 28

Profession: PhD student at Cambridge University

Incident of murder: Tortured by security forces

 

Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old Cambridge PhD student originally from Italy, was on his way to see a friend when he left his flat near Behoos metro station in Cairo on January 25th.

Giulio, by all accounts, was a gifted young man. He spoke five languages – Italian, English, Spanish, Arabic, and German–and was considered a fine writer and hard worker.

The 25th marked the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak—it was also the last day Regeni was seen alive.


The Italian foreign ministry was concerned about his mysterious disappearance. Nine days later, Regeni’s body was found in a ditch near a desert highway between Cairo and Alexandria. An examination of his body in Rome concluded that he was tortured before his death—he was burned, beaten, and mutilated. His nails had been ripped out and he suffered from broken ribs and a brain hemorrhage.


 

Regeni’s murder bears all the hallmarks of an extrajudicial killing by the state’s security forces, who are believed to be behind the deaths of 474 Egyptians in 2015 alone.


 

But Regeni’s case stands out amid the catalog of horrors. His murder was the first to ever occur to a foreign academic working in Cairo. Regeni could have expected to be harassed or even deported for his work, but would have been assured of his physical safety due to his passport.

 

In Italy, newspaper reports speculated about why Regeni was killed, including theories about the sensitive research he was conducting on labor unions in Egypt, the contacts he was making, and even the journalism he did on the side, using a pseudonym, for a communist newspaper in Italy called Il Manifesto that was critical of the Egyptian government.

The case has become a diplomatic problem between the two countries that hold deep economic, business, and defense ties. But, there is no evidence that, beyond some rhetoric, Italy is prepared to put real pressure on Egypt.

On the day that he went missing he was reportedly on his way to meet a friend named Gennaro Gervasio, a lecturer in the department of political science at the British University in Cairo (BUE), at a restaurant near Tahrir Square. Gervasio declined to speak to the Guardian.

A source at the American University in Cairo named three people who have studied labor relations in Egypt–a sensitive topic–who were subsequently detained, deported, or barred from re-entering the country since 2011.

Investigations into Regeni’s life and personal relationships have added to speculation that his contact with activists involved in the labor movement made him a target. Likely fearing for their own safety, close friends of Regeni have avoided talking to the media due to increased pressure and speculation.

Civil society groups hold little hope that a fair investigation will be carried out. “[The case] will be investigated but it’s highly unlikely that the government will prosecute one of their own,” said Hussein Baoumi of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.

In November 2018, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Italy for a Libya conference in Palermo, the first visit since the disappearance and murder of Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016.

The case has strained ties between Egypt and Italy with Italy recalling its ambassador over the case. Relations warmed in August, 2017 when Rome said it would return its envoy to Cairo while it continued to search for Regeni’s killers.

Italy’s state-backed energy group Eni announcing the discovery of a giant natural gas field in Egypt last year illustrates Egypt’s importance as a lucrative business partner, but perhaps more importantly for Italy is Egypt’s political support in the event of a possible military intervention in Libya.