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Tragic end to search for Italian PhD student missing in Cairo

Italy demands that its own experts take part in probe into the violent death of Giulio Regeni, whose body was found dumped by a roadside
Regeni, 28, had been conducting fieldwork for a PhD on the Egyptian economy (Twitter / @asoueif)

The body of an Italian PhD student who went missing in Cairo last week has been discovered lying in a ditch just outside the Egyptian capital, bearing torture wounds.

Giulio Regeni, 28, went missing on the way to meet a friend in central Cairo on the morning of 25 January, the fifth anniversary of the start of the Egyptian revolution.

He had been carrying out research towards a PhD focusing on the Egyptian economy.

His body was discovered on Thursday morning by the side of a desert road linking Giza with the coastal city of Alexandria.

“The body bore marks resulting from beating and abrasions,” a security source told Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Yaum – other local media reported that Regeni's body had been partially burnt and had cigarette burns to the face. 

Egyptian experts are now conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of Regeni’s death. A source told al-Masry al-Yaum that the killing was “criminal rather than political,” with suggestions that he may have died during a robbery that turned violent.

Regeni's violent death threatens to sour relations between Egypt and Italy, one of the country's strongest European allies and the first to receive current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after he overthrew his predecessor in 2013.

Italy has urged Egypt to allow Italian experts to take part in the investigation into Regeni's death, with foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni saying on Thursday that "we want the truth to come out, every last bit of it".

"We owe that much to a family that has been stricken in an irreparable way and, at the very least, has the right to know the truth."

Regeni disappeared on 25 January, amid a strongly heightened police presence on the streets of Cairo ahead of planned demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

However, he is not known to have been involved in any political activities while studying in Egypt.

Friends in Cairo had launched a desperate campaign to find Regeni, who was studying for a PhD at the UK’s University of Cambridge.

A fellow Cambridge student and Cairo resident, Noura Wahby, said on Facebook that Regeni loved “Egypt..and the people. He thinks we deserve the best.”

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