Trial Starts in Italian Student's 'Inhuman' Torture, Murder

Egyptians being tried in absentia for Giulio Regeni's killing
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2021 1:01 AM CDT
Updated Oct 14, 2021 6:15 AM CDT
Trial Starts in Italian Student's 'Inhuman' Torture, Murder
In this Feb. 19, 2020 file photo, a mural depicting detained Egyptian human rights advocate and student at the University of Bologna in Italy Patrick George Zaki, being hugged from behind by Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, who was murdered in Cairo in 2016, is displayed on a wall in Rome.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

(Newser) – One of the autopsies performed on the body of a 28-year-old Italian man found slain in Egypt in 2016 found that he suffered "inhuman, animal-like" violence. On Thursday, four men with Egypt's security forces go on trial in absentia for the murder of Giulio Regeni, a University of Cambridge PhD student. The BBC reports the two countries have vastly different takes on what transpired. Egypt has suggested the murder was variously tied to drugs, a robbery attempt, or a gay tryst. Italian prosecutors accuse Egypt's National Security Agency (NSA) of having kidnapped, tortured, and killed Regeni after believing him to be a spy and surveilling him for 40 days: Regeni went missing in Cairo on January 25, 2016, and his body was found nine days later.

The Guardian reports the "in absentia" aspect of the trial is the result of Egypt refusing to "recognize the Italian legal process." Al-Jazeera gets more specific, explaining that Italy may go ahead without the suspects being present if it is shown that Italian officials did all they could to communicate the charges to them; Egypt has refused all of the Italian prosecutors' requests for the men's addresses. General Tariq Sabir and Colonels Usham Helmi and Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim face kidnapping charges; Major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif is also facing charges related to Regeni's murder.

At the time of Regeni's disappearance, he was studying independent trade unions, which factored heavily into the 2011 revolution that saw President Hosni Mubarak ousted. Prosecutors believe he caught the attention of Egypt’s NSA after offering to assist the head of the street vendor's unit apply for a grant from a British NGO. An NSA employee has reportedly told prosecutors he saw Regeni being held in a building used by the NSA, describing him as "half naked, the superior part of his body had signs of torture … he was delirious." (Read more Giulio Regeni stories.)

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