The disclosure of Egyptian security officials’ names came shortly after Cairo had closed an investigation into the 2016 murder of an Italian student in Egypt.
Italian prosecutors announced yesterday they were ready to file charges against four out of five Egyptian secret service members over the abduction, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian postgraduate student who was found dead near a road in Cairo in 2016.
The four agents, who will be tried in absentia, are named Major General Tarek Sabir, Major Magdy Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif, police colonel Hisham Helmy and colonel Ather Kamal Mohamed Ibrahim.
Major Magdy is accused of “grievous bodily harm and murdering” Cambridge researcher Regeni, while the other three are blamed for “aggravated kidnapping”. There is insufficient evidence against the fifth agent Mahmoud Najem.
The prosecutors said the four Egyptians have 20 days to present evidence for their defence.
There was no immediate response from Egyptian authorities about the Italian allegations.
Regeni,28, went missing in February 2016 in the Egytian capital. His tortured body was found nine days later in a ditch near a road outside Cairo. His body was so disfigured that his mother had said she only recognised him by the tip of his nose.
The victim was conducting research on Egypt’s labour unions at the time he went missing. His case was focusing on the worsening human rights situation under the regime of President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, who came to power after a bloody military coup years earlier.
Investigators from both countries had been working together on the murder. The Italian side made public that the witnesses had talked to prosecutors in Rome, suggesting that Regeni was held by Egyptian security officials.
He was abducted by agents of the Egyptian National Security Agency on January 25, 2016 and taken to at least two barracks in the subsequent hours. The young man was seen in a barracks near the Dokki metro stop, and later at another barracks where young foreigners are usually taken, the witnesses said.
The Egyptian magistrates found the statements unreliable. Earlier this month, they suspended their investigation. Italian charges followed that move.
Cairo has denied its security services were involved in Regeni’s death. Egyptian sources claimed that his death was caused by a car accident, and that a gang was then responsible. However, these claims have never been substantiated.
Human rights groups have repeatedly warned about the misconduct of the Egyptian security services. Amnesty International reported in early December that at least 57 people were executed by Egyptian authorities in November and October alone. That’s more than 32 executed throughout 2019.
The Sisi regime has been blamed for the arbitrary arrests of political and civil rights activists on fabricated charges on many occasions.
Western leaders and lawmakers have condemned human rights violations, however their governments continue to back Sisi's government. Even Italy approved the sale of two frigates to Egypt in a $1.35 billion deal earlier this year.
“European governments, including Italy, keep selling weapons to Egypt and willingly ignore its abuses, an attitude that has emboldened President Sisi’s brutal rule and enabled his self-perception as an essential geopolitical and counterterrorism partner. Just this week, French President Macron awarded Sisi France’s highest honor.” said Human Rights Watch, or HRW, an international human rights organisation.
“The upcoming trial for Regeni’s murder could offer a rare opportunity to break the cycle of impunity for Egypt’s security apparatus,” it added.