Diplomatic tensions reach breaking point as Italy recalls ambassador to Egypt in Regeni row

Amelia Oakley 9 April 2016

Italy has recalled its ambassador to Egypt after two days of inconclusive talks between Egyptian and Italian investigators on the subject of the murdered Girton student Giulio Regeni. 

The Italian Foreign Ministry stated that it had recalled Ambassador Maurizio Massari as “an urgent evaluation” is needed in order to discover how best to “ascertain the truth about the barbaric murder of Giulio Regeni”. 

The Ministry’s statement follows two days of talks in Rome where Senior Egyptian Investigators — who were reportedly accompanied by 2000 pages of evidence — briefed their Italian counterparts on the investigation. At the end of the second day of talks, Italian investigators dismissed the Egyptian evidence as "insufficient".

The news was also publicised on Twitter by Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, accompanied by the hashtag #veritapergiulioregeni which translates as “truth for Giulio Regeni”. 

The body of Regeni, a PhD student researching labour union movements in Egypt, was found 10 days after his initial disappearance on the 25 January 2016 exhibiting signs of brutal torture. Reports in March that Egyptian authorities had found and killed a criminal gang responsible for Regeni’s death were met with scepticism in Italy. The Ministry’s latest statement added that the chief Italian prosecutor “reiterated his conviction that there are no elements to directly directly link the gang to the torture and death of Giulio Regeni”. 

The talks in Rome come after strong criticism of the Egyptian investigation into Regeni’s death so far. On Tuesday the Italian foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni warned Cairo against presenting “distorted or convenient truths” at this week’s talks and promised to take “proportional” action if the meetings in Rome did not prompt “a change in gear”. 

Italian officials have since stated that the Egyptian dossier presented in Rome did not include any new information, such as Regeni's mobile phone records or CCTV footage of the area in Cairo where he went missing. Egyptian investigators stood by recent claims that a criminal gang were responsible for Regeni’s murder. 

The high-profile case has sparked outrage internationally, with the Italian branch of Amnesty International calling for the “truth about Giulio Regeni”, several leading politicians calling for the truth of Regeni’s death to be told, and wide spread speculation that Egyptian security forces played a part in the death of Regeni due to the nature of his PHD research.  

A petition stating that "The UK government has a duty to ensure that a credible investigation of this extrajudicial killing is carried out" has so far reached 9,800 signatures.

These most recent developments appear to mark the height of the increased diplomatic tensions between two nations so far. Sources in the Egyptian ministry are reportedly keen to calm the situation, expressing fears that the Italian decision to recall the ambassador could impact trade between the two nations — who were previously strong allies.