Italy Urged Egypt for Help Hours After Student Disappeared in Cairo

Security forces were busy preventing protests and violence on the day Giulio Regeni went missing, which coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Egyptian uprising.

Activists hold placards during a memorial for Giulio Regeni outside of the Italian embassy in Cairo, Egypt, February 6, 2016.
Reuters

AP - Italian officials contacted Egyptian authorities hours after a student later found tortured to death disappeared in central Cairo last month, according to an official summary of Italian efforts to locate him.

The summary, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, says Ambassador Maurizio Massari contacted Italian intelligence, who reached out to their Egyptian counterparts shortly after Giulio Regeni disappeared on January 25.

Egyptian security forces had been extremely active on that day, raiding apartments, checking IDs, and searching baggage in order to prevent protests or violence on the fifth anniversary of a popular uprising. Regeni's body, stabbed repeatedly and exhibiting cigarette burns and other signs of torture, turned up dumped by a roadside in a Cairo suburb on February 3.

On January 26, Massari sent a diplomatic note to his Egyptian counterpart, and a day later requested to meet the interior minister but the request was denied, the summary said. Neither the Egyptian Interior Ministry nor the Foreign Ministry could be immediately reached for comment.

Italy waited for six days before going public with the case, which has prompted accusations that it prioritized business interests with Egypt — and hopes for a trade delegation headed to Cairo as Regeni disappeared — over the search for the student. The visit of some 60 business people was cut short on the news of his death and its leader, Economic Development Minister Federica Guidi, returned home.

Rome says it wants those responsible for the killings to be found and be punished on the basis of law.

Italian media have honed in on the hypothesis that elements in Egypt's security forces, which have been repeatedly criticized by human rights watchdogs, had arrested the young man because he was in contact with Egyptian labor activists as part of his research.

An Italian autopsy on Regeni's body showed that the doctoral student suffered "inhuman, animal-like" violence, Italy's interior minister said on Sunday as he pressed Egypt's president to fully cooperate with the criminal investigation.