Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek formed an investigation team to work on the murder case of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni, following pressure by the victim’s family and the Italian government to find Regeni’s killers.
In a statement issued by prosecution general authorities, published by state-run news agency MENA on Wednesday, Sadek said he was closely following up with his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Buitoni regarding the case.
“Both parties confirmed and agreed on mutual cooperation through an exchange of information and updates on the case until the perpetrators are brought to justice,” the statement read.
Regeni’s parents spoke this week during a press conference before the Italian senate. They said they did not believe their son’s death was an isolated incident, adding that they would release pictures of their son’s distorted body to the public if justice is not served, according to a report from Italy’s Corriere Della Sera.
This comes after Italy gave Egypt an ultimatum on 5 April, warning of serious action in the case due to a lack of cooperation by Egyptian authorities. Italy also threatened to recall its ambassador to Egypt, according to reports by La Repubblica, which quoted Luigi Manconi, an Italian senator and president of the senate’s commission for human rights.
According to international criminal law, Egypt has sovereign rights over ongoing investigations on its soil; however; the regime must be seriously consider the implications of Italy’s warnings, explains Aiman Salama, a professor of international law and member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.
Shedding light on the complexity of the relationship between state sovereignty and international criminal law, Salama explained to Daily News Egypt on Thursday what he referred to as “the legal disparities between the Egyptian and Italian sides, regarding the exchange of certain information, statements or declarations in the case”.
Italy asked Egypt’s authorities for information regarding the autopsy conducted by the local Forensic Medicine Authority, to which the Egyptian authorities responded by stating that such information was sensitive with regards to the country’s highest national security interests.
“Egypt is legally allowed to keep information, statements, and even eyewitnesses confidential in the above-mentioned case. But at the same time, the dimensions of Regeni’s case require opening the doors for some compromises with the Italian counterparts, which will prove good will on behalf of the Egyptian regime,” Salama stated.
Salama said that local authorities are right in protecting the sovereignty of Egypt, but must also seek to maintain a balance between safeguarding the state’s security interests and responding to justice.
“In other words, the Egyptian regime should refrain from groundlessly rejecting Italian inquiries on the case, because it is bound by requisites of justice to finding the truth in any case similar to Regeni’s, regardless of the nationalities of the victims and the perpetrators,” said Salama.
Repeating that the government must re-consider the handling of Regeni’s case under international law, Samaha commented by stating that in all cases, there would be no evasion from accountability.
“On one hand, if it is proven that a security man or men of any ranks [was involved], this will not prevent accountability. On the other hand, if this turns out to be an isolated case, there would still be no evasion from punishing the perpetrator,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian prosecution explained on Wednesday, it was working on two parts of the case. First, investigations of different locations where evidence related to Regeni’s case was found. Second, the prosecution said it was also looking into the case of the police killing four gang members and their driver, allegedly involved in the kidnapping and robbery of foreigners in Egypt.
On 25 March, the Ministry of Interior claimed to have shot all gang members dead after they entered into an exchange of fire with security forces. On the same night, the ministry announced that items belonging to Regeni, including his ID cards, were found at the apartment of one of the dead suspects’ sister.
The woman allegedly confessed that her brother hid “stolen things at her apartment”. The police also claimed to have found the suspect’s wife and brother-in-law during the raid.
According to local media reports, the prosecution’s first reaction to the ministry’s statement rejected links between the alleged gang and the murder of the Italian researcher in Egypt. The scenario – unofficially established – also raised Italy’s suspicions.
However, last Sunday, Al-Ahram reported that the prosecution authorities ordered the detention for four days of the sister, wife and brother-in-law of one of the alleged gang members, identified as Tarek Abdel Fattah, 52, killed along with his 26-year-old son Saad Abdel Fattah.
Also in its Wednesday report, the prosecution confirmed the police’s story of the gang’s involvement in targeting foreigners with theft by coercion in separate areas throughout Greater Cairo, according to the testimony of alleged victim of robbery, who recognised the suspects in photos.