Italy demands answers as student's body flown in from Cairo

ROME -- Italy demanded Saturday that Egyptian authorities swiftly determine who was responsible for the torture and slaying of an Italian doctoral student researching Egyptian labour movements and other social issues in Cairo.

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Justice Minister Andrea Orlando spoke Saturday at a Rome airport as the plane carrying the body of Giulio Regeni and his grieving parents from Cairo landed. The body was taken to a Rome university for a second autopsy, following one done in Cairo after Regeni's body was discovered in a suburb of the Egyptian capital.

Regeni, 28, disappeared on Jan. 25, the anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising, a day when security forces were on high alert and on the streets in force to prevent any demonstrations. His body, stabbed repeatedly and exhibiting cigarette burns and other signs of torture, was reported found on Feb. 3 by Egyptian authorities. He had been living in Cairo for the months while doing research as a candidate for a Cambridge University doctorate.

"I am here to show my deep condolences and that of the government, and closeness to the Regeni family," Orlando told reporters. "But I am also here to affirm the will of the government that truth and complete clarity emerge as soon as possible and that justice be done."

Italy's ambassador in Cairo said he was shocked at the body's condition.

"To see it was devastating. It showed evident signs of beating and torture," Ambassador Maurizio Massari told the Corriere della Sera daily. "I took note of the wounds, bruises and burn marks. There is no doubt that the young man was heavily beaten and tortured."

In Cairo, prosecutors say they are waiting for a full report from the Egyptian autopsy.

Demands for a proper investigation also were voiced outside the Italian embassy in Cairo, where dozens of Egyptian activists, academics and a few foreigners gathered Saturday to pay respects and leave flowers. As police and plainclothes security officers heavily patrolled the area, many said Regeni's case mirrored those of Egyptians who have disappeared during security roundups.

"He had a wonderful enthusiasm and personality," said Dina Makram, a labour issues researcher who ran a workshop that Regeni attended and who was holding a candle lit in his remembrance. "When you do academic field work here, it does make people suspicious."

She noted that Regeni had also attended independent trade union meetings.

"Those conferences are always full of people from the intelligence services," Makram said.

Regeni had also been writing occasional pieces for an Italian leftist newspaper, Il Manifesto. The papers' editors said Regeni had insisted on a pseudonym for his byline, a strong indication that he had safety concerns during his time in Cairo.

The tensions over Regeni's death and how his disappearance and investigation were handled by the Egyptian authorities come at a delicate time for the Italian government. Worried about the spread of the Islamic State group in Egypt's neighbour Libya, Rome hopes it can count on Cairo as a dependable ally in the fight against violent extremism.

Italy is also looking to boost its already strong economic relations with Egypt. Last summer, the Italian energy giant ENI announced the discovery of a "supergiant" gas field offshore Egypt.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, speaking to reporters Saturday in Amsterdam, said Italian investigators were beginning to work with Egyptian authorities on the case. Gentiloni mentioned preliminary arrests, but the deputy head of criminal investigations in Cairo's twin province of Giza, Alaa Azmi, denied Saturday that anyone had been detained.


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