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Gentiloni: “Regeni murder case, our dignity is at stake” (l’Unità)

The murder of Giulio Regeni has shaken our conscience and that of the whole Country because it has broken off the life of an exemplary Italian youth, a doctoral candidate at Cambridge and a researcher at the American University of Cairo, for the way he was atrociously tortured and killed and for the lesson of composure and dignity that his parents have given.

We are about to have important meetings that could be decisive in pushing forward the investigations.

As is widely known, Giulio went missing in Cairo on the evening of 25 January and our Ambassador took immediate action on the following days, speaking with the Deputy Foreign Minister, with the President’s National Security Advisor and with the Minister of the Interior. I too, during those days, asked my counterpart, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, to take all possible steps to find the reasons for his disappearance.

Unfortunately, Giulio Regeni’s body was later found on February 3. After talking to Paola, his mother, I gave immediate instructions to formally request, through a Note Verbale, the re-entry of the body in Italy on the one hand and, on the other hand, the possibility of Italy taking part in the investigations that were about to initiate and, at the same time, to immediately summon the Egyptian Ambassador in order to not only express the Government’s concern but also its determination to seek the truth. That same day – the 4th of February – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi notified to the Prime Minister Egypt’s assent to the arrival of the Italian team of investigators, which arrived in Cairo two or three days after finding Giulio Regeni’s body.

The Government’s position in the talks with our counterparts in Parliament and in any other instance was very clear from the start. I will summarize it with the words used by the Prime Minister: “We will only stop when we find out the truth, the real truth and not a convenient truth”. The fact that Egypt is a key Country in the region and undoubtedly our important ally in fighting terrorism has never been considered an obstacle and, if anything, it should be considered an incentive to resolutely persist in seeking the truth. Similarly, when we raise the issue of the respect of human rights in Egypt, we certainly don’t do it to undermine the Country’s stability but rather to consolidate it.

After a first informative phase, with the passing of weeks, the collaboration between our team of investigators and Egyptian authorities became generic and insufficient. This is why, at the end of February, I notified the Foreign Ministry in Cairo of a Note Verbale in which our Ambassador subsequently formulated very precise and circumstantial requests in relation to the materials (five different types) forming part of the investigative activities of the Egyptian authorities. On March 2, following the Note Verbale, a 91-page dossier was delivered to our Embassy, which we immediately transmitted to the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rome which, in the meantime, had opened an investigation procedure. I’m not authorized to go into the merit of these documents and certainly not into the details, but the Public Prosecutor’s Office clarified that this dossier was undoubtedly generally insufficient and, more specifically, it lacked at least two of the materials requested in the five sections of our Note Verbale, namely those relative to the cellular traffic of Giulio Regeni’s phone and to any surveillance video that might have been operating at the Cairo metro, in the proximity of which the Italian national could have been kidnapped.   

This collaboration was further hindered by the overlapping of more or less official or semi-official news and versions, denials and convenient truths, which have circulated too frequently during these last few months and almost always outside the investigation channels established between Italy and Egypt and between our two investigative authorities. These versions spanned from the theory of a criminal act aimed at undermining the relations between the two Countries (which can certainly be true for the context but is certainly not the outcome of an investigation) to rumours on Giulio Regeni being the informer of this or that intelligence agency.    

This certainly did not contribute to making our collaboration efficient.

In mid-March, the visit to Egypt by Chief Public Prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone and his deputy, Sergio Colaiocco, got relations back on the right track. During those same days, President el-Sisi said in interviews to Italian newspapers, that he wanted to pursue the search for truth to the end. However, ten days later, on 24 March, our team of investigators was summoned in Cairo late at night to a briefing by the Egyptian investigative team on the killing of a group of five criminals with a record of robbing and kidnapping foreign citizens by passing off as police officers. In the briefing, our investigators were told that a bag was found in the house of the leader of this group of criminals, with Giulio Regeni’s passport and university ID cards, among other things.  

This appeared as a further and more serious attempt to endorse a convenient truth, to which Italy had a firm and immediate reaction. Both the Government and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Rome, through their respective channels, immediately clarified that we would not accept this as the outcome of the investigation. The victim’s family also had a forceful public reaction. In the following days, several representatives of the Egyptian Government released a de facto denial of the theory allegedly blaming the group of criminals for Giulio Regeni’s murder and clarified that investigations were still ongoing. We acknowledged this stance until – and I want to underscore this – the major Egyptian daily, Al Ahram, published an editorial by the editor-in-chief two days ago, publicly calling on the State to find and punish the culprits. This is how things stand to date.

At this point I think it is legitimate and dutiful to wonder if the firm reaction of the Government, the prosecutors, the family and of all of Italy can reopen a channel of full collaboration; the same channel that was assured by President el-Sisi himself. We will be able to understand this after holding the meeting between the investigators, scheduled for Thursday and Friday this week, which will be attended by five Egyptian prosecutors and investigators.

What do we mean by re-establishing a channel of full collaboration? Firstly it means obtaining the missing documentation, that we know exists and that we have formally requested; it means not endorsing distorted or convenient truths; it means identifying the people responsible for putting Giulio Regeni under surveillance in the period prior to his abduction; it means accepting the idea that the investigative activities can envisage a more active role by Italian investigators, obviously under the responsibility of the Egyptian investigators, as provided for by law. 

It will be primarily up to the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to evaluate the realisation of a change of course. We will understand and evaluate this jointly over the next few days, without heeding to this or that rumour or this or that journalistic scoop.

However, I want to say something as of now in order to do away with all possible doubts: if this change of course does not occur, the Government is ready to react by immediately adopting proportional measures and promptly informing the Parliament thereof.  

In these last few days, I heard – more or less correctly but frequently – reference made to the reason of State around this terrible incident. It is our imperative to defend, to the end and against anybody, the memory of Giulio Regeni, whose barbarian murder, his mother said, revealed “all the evil of the world”. We therefore claim the reason of State in demanding the truth; we rely on the reason of State in not accepting well-crafted truths; we rely on the reason of State in not surrendering to this incident falling in oblivion; and it is primarily for a reason of State that we will not allow that the dignity of our Country be trampled.  


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