Italy mourns slain student as premier demands 'truth' from Egypt

ROME -- Italy's premier on Friday insisted his country's friendship with Egypt can only exist "if the truth emerges" in the death of an Italian doctoral student who was doing research in Cairo.

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Premier Matteo Renzi, in remarks on Italian state radio on the day of Giulio Regeni's funeral, was keeping up the political pressure on the Egyptian government to find and bring to justice whoever tortured and killed the young man, who had been living in Cairo for a few months to research Egyptian labour movements for his doctorate from Cambridge University.

Regeni's body was found on Feb. 3, nine days after he disappeared while heading to a subway station.

In the victim's hometown of Fiumicello in northeastern Italy, friends streamed in from afar for a private funeral service being held Friday afternoon in a gym. Townspeople opened their homes, offering spare rooms and couches to mourners who couldn't find lodging in the town of a few thousand people.

The media and authorities were excluded, with the 1,000 chairs in the gym reserved for relatives and friends only. Those who couldn't fit inside huddled together under umbrellas in a light rain and followed the service through loudspeakers.

The 28-year-old student disappeared at the same time that Egyptian police and other security agents were out in force on Cairo's streets, determined to quickly quash any demonstrations to recall the anniversary of the country's uprising. His body was discovered along a road on Cairo's outskirts.

"It's a dramatic affair," Renzi said on the radio. "I again express condolences to Giulio's family and I say that which we have told the Egyptians: 'Friendship is a precious thing and it is possible only in truth."'

Italian state TV said, without citing sources, that the Italian investigators have spoken to a witness who told them two men, apparently plainclothes police, stopped Regeni and then escorted him away as the student walked the short distance from his apartment building to the subway stop.

Some of Regeni's friends in Cairo have also told Italian investigators that Regeni was unnerved one day in December when, as the only foreigner attending a labour meeting in the city, someone took his photo and then left.

Egyptian authorites initially blamed Regeni's death on a road accident. A second autopsy, done in Italy after his body arrived last week, determined that Regeni suffered a fatal fracture of a cervical vertebra, either from a strong blow to the neck or caused by a severe, forced, twisting of the neck. His hands, feet and other bones had multiple fractures and his face was heavily bruised, the autopsy found. Italian news reports said toe and fingernails had been ripped off.

Laboratory results to determine when he died are expected to take a few more days.


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