Developments in Regeni case after fight breaks out in court

Lili Bidwell 8 May 2016

Italian and Egyptian investigators met in Cairo yesterday in new efforts to break the deadlock over the investigation into the death of Cambridge PhD student, Guilio Regeni. The developments come a day after a court hearing in which the Regeni family's legal aid, activist Ahmad Abdullah, was detained for a further 15 days. 

Abdullah is facing charges of belonging to a banned group and attempting to overthrow the state. He was seized from his house on 25 April, the same day that there were planned protests against the transfer of two islands to Saudi Arabia. Whilst his arrest was not directly related to the case, the Regeni family have expressed their dissatisfaction with his detention.

Mohammed Lotfy, from the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom, spoke about the potentially suspect motives for the arrest, stating: “of course the declared reason [for his arrest and trial] concerns the 25 April, but you don’t know what is in the mind of the national security officer who added his name to the list of people to be arrested.”

On Saturday 7 May, as Abdullah was being trialed, fights broke out in court as the activist tried to hold up a sign saying "Truth for Regeni." Due to the fight that broke out between Bailiffs and Lawyers as people attempted to photograph Abdullah with the sign, the judge ordered all defendants, including Regeni's family, to leave the room. Police confiscated phones and deleted any images taken. Following the chaos of the fight, the dentention of Abdullah has been extended for another 15 days. 

The arrival of Italian investigators on saturday night is the latest of efforts by the Italian authorities to gain greater clarity in relation to the case. Last month Rome withdrew their ambassador from Cairo, suggesting that Egyptians authorities were not cooperating in the investigation into what happened to Regeni, and accusing the Egyptians of withholding valuable information.  

However a breakthrough during a meeting on Friday when, according to Reuters, the Egyptians shared details of phone records related to the investigation with the Italians.

Italian investigators have not yet commented on the outcome of sunday's talks. The Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni has expressed concern about the willingness of Egyptian authorities to cooperate with Rome. 

Gentiloni stated that “the killing of Giulio was so horrible and we cannot accept an Italian citizen to be tortured and killed in this way. I have to say that until now the cooperation was not satisfactory … I hope that in the next days things will change, but frankly speaking I want to see results before being optimistic on this.”