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14 Feb, 2023 18:09

Italian PM to testify in murder trial

Giorgia Meloni will give evidence on Egypt’s role in stalling the case of a murdered student
Italian PM to testify in murder trial

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani have been called to testify in the trial of four Egyptian law enforcement agents accused of torturing and murdering an Italian student in 2016. Meloni will be asked what assurances she received from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that Cairo will cooperate.

Meloni and Tajani will testify in Rome on April 3, Italian media reported on Monday. Their testimony was requested by Alessandra Ballerini, a lawyer representing the family of the late Giulio Regeni.

Regeni was a student at Cambridge University in 2016 when he traveled to Cairo to conduct research on trade unions and labor unrest. He disappeared that January, and his mutilated corpse was discovered in a ditch several days later, bruised, beaten, burned, and stabbed. Italian and Egyptian investigations concluded that he was tortured for several days before succumbing to his injuries. He was 28 years old. 

Cairo blamed the abduction and murder on a criminal gang, although Italian prosecutors – backed by US officials – pinned the blame on al-Sisi’s security agents. Four security officials were charged and tried in absentia in Rome, with the case opening in October 2021. 

However, the case has not progressed since, as the Egyptian authorities have not released the addresses of the four accused. Under Italian law, the case could not begin unless the men were officially informed that they had been charged.

Meloni met with al-Sisi at a UN climate summit in Egypt in November, telling reporters afterwards that the pair touched on the Regeni case. Tajani met with the Egyptian leader in January, and said that al-Sisi assured him that he would “remove the obstacles” to resolving the case.

Ballerini said that she would ask Meloni and Tajani precisely what kind of assurances al-Sisi offered them.

Regeni’s murder soured relations between Rome and Cairo. Meloni’s predecessors rekindled this relationship, however, with state gas company Eni signing a deal with its Egyptian counterpart on Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s watch last year, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte inking a $1.2 billion arms deal with Egypt the year before.