Italy threatens "immediate" measures against Egypt over Regeni murder

Italy's Foreign Minister warned Tuesday his country would take "immediate and proportional" measures against Egypt if Cairo continued to drag its feet over the case of Giulio Regeni, an Italian PhD student murdered in Cairo two months ago.

Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni briefed the Senate ahead of meetings on Thursday and Friday in Rome during which Italian prosecutors and police expect Egyptian counterparts to produce key evidence about the crime.

If the talks do not produce results, "the government is ready to react [by] adopting immediate and proportional measures, and parliament will be promptly informed," Gentiloni said.

Last week, Regeni's parents called on Italian authorities to recall the ambassador to Cairo for consultations and to declare Egypt a country unsafe for tourism - a step that would badly affect one of its major industries.

Gentiloni said Egypt had so far offered "generic and insufficient" cooperation, having delivered to the Italian embassy in Cairo a 91-page dossier on March 2 lacking key information requested by Rome prosecutors.

Italian investigators want mobile phone data tracking Regeni's movements and video footage from the Cairo underground station he is believed to have entered on the day of his disappearance, according to the minister.

"We know [this] documentation exists and we have formally requested it," he said.

He warned Cairo against spreading more implausible theories about the murder, urged them to investigate the "probable" scenario that Regeni was placed "under observation" before he disappeared, and asked for greater involvement of Italian investigators.

Regeni moved to Cairo in September to do research for Cambridge University on Egypt's trade union movement. He disappeared on January 25 and his body was found on February 3, with Italian officials later saying it showed clear signs of torture.

The death has attracted renewed scrutiny of Egypt's security record under President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, amid allegations that state security agencies likely had a hand in Regeni's murder. Cairo has strongly denied this.

Gentiloni said Italy would continue pressing Egypt, despite Cairo being a key diplomatic and economic partner. Italy's energy company Eni has a major offshore gas project in Egyptian waters, and Cairo is a leading player in Libya, a former colony Rome is keen to stabilize.

"We will stop only when we will find out the truth, the real one, not the convenient one," the minister said.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, in an official response, did not address the details of Gentiloni's remarks.

A statement from ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zaid said, "we refrain from commenting on these statements which complicate the situation, particularly as they come one day prior to the arrival of the Egyptian investigators’ team to Italy to brief the Italian side on all of the developments of the investigation."

Last update: Tue, 05/04/2016 - 18:05
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