Egypt’s state official television has aired ‘exclusive’ footage of Italian student Giulio Regeni, who was found murdered in Cairo almost a year ago, speaking to the head of the independent street vendors’ union Mohamed Abdallah who reported him to police a few weeks before his death, according to Reuters.
Giulio Regeni, the Ph.D. student who was doing postgraduate research into Egyptian trade unions, disappeared on the fifth anniversary of January Revolution.
The Cambridge University student’s body was found brutally tortured in a roadside ditch on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, on February 3, 2016.
His mother said that she could only recognize him by his nose.
Torture found on Regeni’s body showed the signs of Egypt’s security forces which are known for using violence against detainees to gain information and confessions.
In fact, the Egyptian officials have denied any involvement in Regeni’s death. The Egyptian authorities have narrated several stories about the Italian student murder.
They previously claimed he was killed in a traffic accident. Then, they claimed he was kidnapped and murdered by a gang specialized in killing foreigners. Four suspected men were shot dead by the Egyptian security forces.
However, security and intelligence sources have told Reuters last April that he had been arrested in Cairo on January 25, and taken into custody.
According to al-Ahram, Egypt’s state owned newspaper, the edited four-minute video was reportedly recorded by the head of the independent street vendors’ union Mohamed Abdallah.
The Union head Mohamed Abdallah was heard in the video repeatedly asking Regeni for money, without success.
He said, “My wife has a cancer operation, I will do anything as long as there is money in it.”
Regeni replied, in Arabic language, “Mohamed, I cannot use the money because it is not my money. I cannot use it like that because I am an academic. I cannot tell the institution in Britain in the application that I want to use the money for personal reasons.”
Moreover, Regeni explained that he would help Abdallah to apply for a grant or workshop worth “10,000 pounds” for union activities but not for personal use.
Abdallah said, “Is there no other way? A way with personal use?”
“Abdallah confirmed he had recorded the video on his mobile phone and that his voice was heard on it,” reported Reuters.
He said the discussion had probably taken place on January 6 or 7.
He also confirmed his earlier statement that he had reported Regeni to the police in early January 2016, and denied that he had acted out of frustration with Regeni’s refusal to give him money.
In addition, Abdallah said that it had been his “national duty” to pass on to police his suspicions that Regeni was a spy.
It is worth to mention that foreign funding of civil society groups such as trade unions is censured upon by the government, which feels suspicious that overseas NGOs helped to destabilize Egypt before January Revolution that overthrown the autocratic regime of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Therefore, organized labor has been under intense scrutiny by the Egyptian security forces who returned powerful after the 2013 military coup. Even foreigners interested in Labor unions have been put under observation.
Moreover, al-Sisi’s government has launched a massive attack against human rights organizations and NGOs efforts to shut down NGOs that receive foreign funding, which could affect unions with links to international labor movements. Many activists were subjected to investigations, travel bans and confiscation of resources in an attempt to limit their activities.
Abdallah defends his status saying, “Any good citizen would have done what I did. “He added, “What he was talking about (offering to help secure funding for the union) gave me a feeling that it was related to spying, and so I told the authorities. What’s wrong with that? I should be applauded.”
He said the sum discussed in the video was 10,000 pounds sterling ($12,500), not 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($530).
The director of news at state television Khaled Mhani, said the video had been provided by the public prosecutor’s office and broadcast at the prosecutor’s request.
According to Reuters, the prosecutor’s office could not be reached for comment.
Recent Developments on Regeni’s Case Point to Real Culprits Behind the Closed Doors of the Egyptian Security Services.
Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek agreed on Sunday to a request by Rome’s Chief Prosecutor to send Italian and other experts from a specialized German company to retrieve CCTV footage, that could help in revealing the circumstances behind the murder of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni in Cairo last year.
Sadek agreed to the request in the frame work of continued cooperation between the Egyptian and Italian prosecutors to resolve the one-year-old case, which led to strains in relations between the two countries, according to an official statement by the Egyptian prosecution.
Sadek also urged Egyptian security agencies to end their investigations on the incident.
The CCTV footage to be recovered are those captured by security cameras at Dokki’s Metro station, which reportedly recorded the last images of Regeni before his disappeared on 25 January, 2016.
It is worth to mention that Egypt’s Prosecutor General visited Rome last December to discuss developments in the investigation which was the fifth meeting between Egyptian prosecutors and their Italian counterparts since the murder.
During the visit, Nabil Sadek assured the parents of Regeni of Egypt’s commitment to achieving justice in the case.
Leaks from the meeting between Egypt’s Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek and Rome’s Chief Prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone and the Italian investigation team, which lasted for 36 hours, appeared intermittently through media reports by some Italian journalists especially in La Repubblica and Corriere de la Serra (Italian newspapers).
A long, detailed anonymous letter was sent to the Italian embassy in Bern, Switzerland and published by La Repubblica described the involvement of different branches of the Egyptian secret services. It also reported that Regeni’s body had been wrapped in an Egyptian army blanket, to direct suspicion towards the military police.
In addition, the Italian Corriere de la Serra linked in some articles, it published, between the enforced disappearances phenomenon in Egypt and the murder of Giulio Regeni.
In fact, these allegations weren’t denied by the Egyptian Embassy in Rome or the prosecutor general’s office in Cairo which proves its validity, especially that it revealed secrets about Regeni’s murder that are unknown to the Egyptian public because they were hidden by the prosecutor general’s office although a publication ban on the case wasn’t officially issued.
The first surprise that appeared in the meeting with the Italian investigation team when Egypt’s Public Prosecutor confessed – with irrefutable evidence – that the Egyptian security forces have lied on both the Egyptian and the Italian parties.
In this context, Nabil Sadek presented evidence that denied the Egyptian security forces narration that they have followed Regeni for only three days starting from January 7 to January 10 as a result of a file issued from the head of the independent street vendors’ union Mohamed Abdallah.
Egypt’s interior ministry said that as a result of Abdallah’s tip-off, it placed Regeni under investigation, but they said that they ended following him on January 10 after they realized that his research was not dangerous and had “no interest to national security” which was denied by Egypt’s Prosecutor General by all means.
However, Sadek said in Rome that investigations adopted by his office confirmed that the security forces continued to follow Regeni directly through their men since he returned back from Italy after celebrating the Christmas with his family and this close investigation lasted till January 14.
Then, it continued to follow him through their agents till January 22 -three days before his disappearance. According to the public prosecutor, the security forces’ right hand for following Regeni was “Agent” Mohamed Abdallah the head of the independent vendors’ union.
The public prosecutor was able to acquire a recorded phone call to Mohamed Abdallah with the security forces where he informed them with Regeni’s moves on January 22 and the public prosecutor handed over the recorded phone call to the Italian investigators.
He also delivered a video that Mohamed Abdallah has recorded to Regeni based on orders from the Egyptian security forces.
In addition, Nabil Sadek has also handed over Rome’s Chief Prosecutor five recorded telephone calls for five leaders in the Egyptian National Security Service from January till March, more than one month after Regeni’s murder, as they were the ones responsible for his security file.
The phone records proved that the interior ministry’s narration in all its details was false.
The prosecutor general also handed over to Pignatone phone records for 11 people who hold security positions and others who work as agents for the security forces as Mohamed Abdallah -the head of the vendors’ union.
In fact, the recorded phone calls were all about Regeni and his activities in Egypt.
As a result, the Italians believed that the real culprits who abducted, tortured and killed Regeni hide behind the closed doors of the Egyptian security services.
In addition, Nabil Sadek gave them a “major gift” that his investigation has shown strong doubts about the authenticity of accusing the five Egyptians who were all shot dead by security forces while they were on a micro bus – according to the story of the Interior Ministry – of being behind the murder of Regeni.
The five passengers were killed by the police forces on March 24.
The prosecutor general informed the Italian investigators that this accident was used by the security forces as “a coverage “to hide the real murderer and accordingly he has referred two of the police officers, who participated in killing the five victims, to investigations to know the truth about what happened especially that there was no exchange of fire with the five victims as claimed by the security forces.
The investigation team didn’t find any blood traces inside the micro bus which means that they were killed outside it. Accordingly, they weren’t attacking the police forces and this means that they were killed previously.
Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek handed over a copy of the investigations conducted with two police officers to the Italian investigators.
Italy Won’t Rest Until Resolving Regeni’s Case
Two days ago, Italy’s foreign minister Angelino Alfano told the Italian parliament two days ago, that his country will not rest until it uncovers the truth behind the murder.
The relations between Egypt and Italy have soared as Italy has repeatedly expressed its dissent from the Egyptian authorities which have been accused of not cooperating to find those responsible for Regeni’s brutal death.
On June 30, the Italian Senate voted to halt supplies to Egypt of spare parts for F16 warplanes in protest against the killing of Italian student Giulio Regeni.
Nicola Latorre, a senator from the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, said the vote was aimed at putting pressure on Egypt to help “the truth emerges more quickly” over the killing.
Two months before the Italian Senate decision, Italy recalled the Italian ambassador from Egypt in light of the unresolved murder of the Italian Student.
In addition, Regeni’s parents have called EU members to isolate Egypt.
Last June, the parents of the Ph.D. student said at the European Parliament’s human rights commission that Italy and Europe must up the pressure on Egypt to obtain a transparent probe into the death of Giulio Regeni, tortured and murdered in Cairo.
Paola and Claudio Regeni said that EU member states must recall their ambassadors and declare Egypt an unsafe country.
They said, “I don’t understand whether Italy is still a friend of Egypt or not: you don’t kill the children of your friend.”
Al-Sisi would sacrifice some of his low-ranking officers
The recent developments on Regeni’s case in a country, which institutions lie under the tight grip of the military regime, suggested that al-Sisi may sacrifice some of his low-ranking officers.
It seems that Egyptian authorities have failed to cover the crime and they try now to contain the situation to avoid turning Regeni’s case to an “international case” which would turn the head of the Egyptian executive authority -the head of the state- as one of the defendants in the crime and this would probably put al-Sisi onto an international trial.
It is noteworthy that Europe has already started to unite its official stance against Egypt after the European Union has recommended banning weapons exports to Egypt considering it a country that violates human rights, as it built its accusation on Regeni’s murder case and Cairo’s efforts to cover the real killers behind the crime.
Moreover, Cairo tries to speed its pace amid the dramatic political changes that occurred in Italy recently and led to the overthrow of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who was described as al-Sisi’s friend, and the rise of a new political power that is known for its opposition to al-Sisi regime.
As a result, the regime has no choice but to give up its tradition in protecting the crimes of its security forces against the Egyptian citizens this time as Regeni’s case is totally different.
It seems that there is a trend now in the regime to desert its men to face the responsibility and carry the crime burden on their backs alone because if al-Sisi protected them this time, he will be the convicted internationally which he totally rejects.
Enforced Disappearance: “A Daily Phenomenon In Al-Sisi Regime”
Since the military coup in Egypt led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi against Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, hundreds of Egyptians were imprisoned, abducted, and tortured. Many have died because of torture and medical negligence.
Amnesty International has released a report in July 2016 saying that hundreds of Egyptians have been forcibly disappeared and tortured in a “sinister” campaign to wipe out peaceful dissent in the most populous country in the Arab world.
Enforced disappearance is defined according to Amnesty International as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of freedom by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of freedom or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”
Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director said, “Enforced disappearance has become a key instrument of state policy in Egypt. Anyone who dares to speak out is at risk, with counter-terrorism being used as an excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture people who challenge the authorities.”
Egypt’s police have been implicated in an “unprecedented spike” in enforced disappearances since early 2015 aimed at quashing dissent, Amnesty International said in its report.
The London-based rights organization said abuses have escalated since the military coup in 2013 led by Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ousting the first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi as the Egyptian security forces have been launching a massive crackdown on Islamist and secular opposition.
However, most of those who have “disappeared” are among the Islamic opposition and the supporters of Mohamed Morsi.
Even children weren’t saved from the Egyptian security forces violations. Children as young as 14 as well as students, political activists and protesters have vanished without any trace after security forces raided their homes.
Many have been held for months at a time and kept blindfolded and handcuffed. At least 34,000 people are behind bars, the government admits.
The report said children were among those being kept at undisclosed locations for up to several months at a time “to intimidate opponents and wipe out peaceful dissent.”
The report documents 17 cases, including five children, who had disappeared for periods of “between several days to seven months,” according to the statement.
In the same context, Amnesty report pointed out to Giulio Regeni’s case.
Amnesty’s Felix Jakens says, “The terrible injuries sustained by Giulio Regeni are similar to those suffered by numerous people interrogated by the Egyptian security forces – his case is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“We fear Regeni was abducted by state agents and tortured to death, and until we get a thorough independent investigation into his death those suspicions are only going to grow.”
The Egyptian authorities have repeatedly denied violations and accused the rights watchdogs of “spreading false rumors” and supporting “terrorist” groups, including the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
But the report says, “The authorities did not provide factual evidence to corroborate their denials.”