Who is Giulio Regeni, the Cambridge student who was found dead in Egypt?
His body was found in a ditch in a suburb of Cairo
Cambridge postgraduate student Giulio Regeni, was working and studying in Cairo. In January, he went missing and his body was found in a ditch two weeks later. It looked like he had been tortured. There were marks that indicated severe beatings, extensive bruising, more than two dozen bone fractures, including seven broken ribs, all his fingers and toes, his arms, legs and shoulder blades, stab wounds, cuts, cigarette burns and a broken cervical vertebra. His body had been dumped on the side of a suburban road.
“I only recognised him because of the tip of his nose,” said his mother Paola. “As for everything else, it was no longer him.”
Paola and her husband have threatened the Egyptian government to release pictures of his tortured body. In response to this pressure, Egyptian and Italian prosecutors and police are finally to start a two-day round of talks in Rome this week to speed up the investigation into his death, and find out who murdered the Cambridge student.
An Italian citizen, Giulio had been studying for a PhD at Girton College, Cambridge at the department of politics and international studies. He had a strong interest in Egypt, and had spent time in Cairo working for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation before his trip there this year.
He is reported to have been carrying out research on trade unions and labour rights in Egypt: a sensitive topic in recent years. He was spending time in the country as a visiting scholar at the American University in Cairo.
It is reported that the 28-year-old left his flat at 20:00 local time on 25 January, planning to take the Metro to central Cairo to meet a friend. This was his last known location until his body was found two weeks later, on the 3rd February, and days after the Italian government announced it was growing increasingly concerned about his disappearance.
The Egyptian government initially accused a criminal gang of the Giulio’s death. However, Italian officials questioned this claim due to a suspicion that security forces were involved.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry said a bag belonging to the Italian student had been discovered in the possession of a criminal gang, who “specialised in impersonating police officers, kidnapping foreigners and forcibly robbing them”. The gang was subsequently all killed in a shootout according to Egyptian officials.
It is alleged the PhD student was taken to a police station in Giza and beaten when he refused to answer questions without an Italian embassy representative.
Many in Italy think that Giulio could have been targeted by the Egyptian intelligence services because of his research on trade unions and activism. The Italian Prime Minister, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, said: “We owe [an investigation] to Giulio, his friends, his mother, father, his little sister, and we owe it to all of us. We hope and we think Egypt can co-operate with our magistrates.”
Giulio, originally from the town of Fiumicello in north-east Italy, had a strong international background and outlook. As a teenager, he won a scholarship that allowed him to spend two formative years studying at the United World College in New Mexico.
When his body was found in February, Cambridge University said: “We are deeply saddened to hear news of the death of Giulio Regeni. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
The talks begin.