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Italy to indict Egyptian security officers in Giulio Regeni murder case

Italian prosecutors give four men 20 days to respond to charges before asking judge to begin trial
Activist in Cairo holds poster calling for justice in case of murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni in 2016 (Reuters)

Italian prosecutors in Rome announced on Thursday that they plan to seek charges against four Egyptian security officers over the torture and death of Italian student Giulio Regeni, in a major breakthrough following a lengthy investigation. 

"We think we've collected elements of significant proof, we are going to ask to begin a criminal action concerning certain members of the Egyptian security services,” said Michele Prestipino, Italy’s public prosecutor.

"We owe it to the memory of Giulio Regeni," he added.

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The prosecutors gave the four men 20 days to respond to the charges before asking a judge to indict them for a trial.

Regeni, a 28-year-old doctoral researcher at Cambridge University, disappeared in Cairo in January 2016. His body was discovered in February along the Cairo-Alexandria highway.

Regeni's body showed extensive marks of torture, and Egyptian security services have been suspected of the killing amid Regeni's research into trade unions.

His murder has damaged ties between Egypt and Italy, with the latter lambasting Egyptian authorities for non-cooperation in the investigation.

Egyptian denial

Amid the Egyptian government's repeated obstructions and denials that its officials were behind the murder, the Egyptian security officers will likely be tried in absentia.

The Egyptian suspects are three from the security forces and one from the police, who are accused of kidnapping Regeni, with one suspected of "aggravated assault and aggravated homicide.” An investigation into a fifth Egyptian was dropped, AFP reported.

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"For the murder of Giulio Regeni there will be only one trial and it will take place in Italy with procedural guarantees according to our laws," Prestipino said.

Last month, Egypt's public prosecutor temporarily closed the file on the murder case of Regeni, saying that authorities had failed to identify a suspect and that Italy’s accusations were based on “insufficient evidence."

The trial will likely reveal more details about Regeni's horrific death, with his body so badly mutilated by torture that his mother could only identify her son by the tip of his nose.

Regeni had sustained a broken neck, wrist, toes, fingers and teeth before his death, while initials were carved into his badly burned and bruised skin.

The trial may also shine a light on about 60,000 political prisoners imprisoned after a military coup led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Cairo claims Regeni was murdered by a "criminal gang", a theory rejected as ludicrous by Italian investigators.