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Italian judge calls for Egyptian officials to stand trial over Regeni death

An investigation found that four Egyptian security officials were complicit in 'aggravated kidnapping' of Italian postgraduate student
Paola and Claudio Regeni stand outside the courthouse with their lawyer before the pre-trial hearing in Rome, 25 May 2021. Sign reads, 'Truth for Giulio Regeni' (Reuters)

An Italian judge ordered four senior Egyptian security officials allegedly involved in the 2016 death of student Giulio Regeni to stand trial, following an investigation.

A legal source told Reuters on Tuesday that Italian prosecutors believed their investigation showed Egyptian officials were responsible for the "aggravated kidnapping" of Regeni, a postgraduate student at Britain's Cambridge University, who disappeared in Cairo in January 2016.

They also said one of the four was also involved in a "conspiracy to commit aggravated murder".

Egyptian police and officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in Regeni's disappearance and killing.

Presiding over a preliminary hearing, an Italian judge agreed that there was sufficient evidence to indict the four and ordered the trial to open on 14 October the legal source said.

'An English spy'

Regeni's disappearance and death provoked a diplomatic spat between Italy and Egypt. A post mortem examination of the student's body showed he had been tortured before his death.

A report released in Italian media in 2019 revealed that Egyptian police had believed Regeni to be a spy.

La Repubblica newspaper quoted a witness who overheard an Egyptian intelligence agent speaking about "the Italian guy".

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The conversation about the tumultuous situation in Egypt in Arabic took place at a police convention in an unnamed African country in 2017 and was related to Italian prosecutors.

"We thought he was an English spy, we picked him up, I went and after putting him in the car we had to beat him. I myself hit him several times in the face," the intelligence agent said, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Egypt has always denied suggestions that its security services were involved in the death of Regeni, who was researching trade unions, a sensitive subject in Egypt.

Frustrated at the slow pace of the probe, Italy withdrew its ambassador to Egypt in April 2016, but sent a new envoy to Cairo the following year.

Egyptian authorities initially suggested that Regeni died in a traffic accident, but later said he was killed by a criminal gang that was subsequently wiped out in a shootout with police.