Diplomatic tension escalates between Egypt and Italy

Diplomatic tension escalates between Egypt and Italy
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters, AFP
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Investigations continue into the death of 28-year-old PHD student Giulio Regeni in Cairo


Diplomatic tension is escalating in the wake of the death of an Italian student in Egypt.

28-year-old Giulio Regeni disappeared in Cairo at the end of January.

His body was found on the roadside a few days later.

Investigators say it bore signs of torture.

Italy has recalled its ambassador to Egypt, after Cairo refused to hand over relevant phone records.

“Italy has been a very very close friend of Egypt since the 30th of June. And if you discuss logically, and people don’t wan’t logic here, they want the truth, But if you discuss logic, I mean, why would the Egyptian authorities, why would any Egyptian harm an Italian? We have no history of torturing foreign visitors in Egypt,” Ahmed Said, the head of the Egyptian parliamentary delegation told Euronews during a visit to the European Parliament.

Italian centre-right MEP Gianni Pitella told Euronews it is a question of human rights.

“I’m asking the European Commission, like the Italian government did, reconsider the relationship with Egypt. Egypt is an economical and strategically important partner both for Italy and Europe, but this doesn’t mean that Egypt can not afford to respect human rights”.

The context

Tensions began when Cairo refused to hand over extensive phone records as part of the investigation into Mr Regeni’s death.

Italy recalled its ambassador to Egypt on Friday, saying investigators had failed to provide the evidence needed to resolve the case.

Who was Giulio Regeni?

Petition for a full investigation into the murder of Giulio Regeni hits 10,000 signatories: https://t.co/sNGajWBs9mpic.twitter.com/ZSKnzNS3SP

— TimesHigherEducation (@timeshighered) April 11, 2016

  • A 28-year-old PHD student
  • Researching the Egyptian labour movement
  • Disappeared on January 25th – the anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising
  • His body was discovered on February 3 with extensive signs of torture, according to Egyptian investigators

Human rights groups say the injuries bear all the hallmarks of Egypt’s security agencies.

They have pointed to the number of Egyptians who have disappeared over the past year.

Egyptian officials have repeatedly denied involvement in Mr Regeni’s death.

However they have yet to offer an explanation that satisfies the Italian authorities.

Officials say the findings of the Italian and Egyptian autopsies were almost identical.

What has Italy done?

  • Recalled its ambassador to Egypt last Friday
  • Requested all phone records from the area where Regeni lived

Observers say Italy’s decision to escalate the diplomatic dispute could dent Italian efforts to become Egypt’s key European partner in fighting terrorism and people-smuggling.

Italy also has significant economic interests in Egypt, including the giant offshore Zohr gas field. This is being developed by Italy’s state energy producer, Eni.

What has Egypt done

  • Cairo says it has complied with 98% of Italy’s requests
  • Handed over the requested surveillance camera but the relevant footage had automatically deleted
  • Refuses to share phone records sought by Italian investigators
  • Wants information about Egyptian national Adel Moawad, who disappeared in Italy last year.

What they are saying

“This demand goes against the constitution and the law and it is a crime for anyone who does it”Egypt’s assistant public prosecutor Mustafa Suleiman says Cairo is examining the records itself.

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