Italy judge suspends trial of Egyptians accused of killing students

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  • Student Regeni found dead in 2016, tortured
  • Egyptian officials and police deny any involvement in the killing
  • Judge ruled that there was no evidence that the suspects knew of the trial

ROME, October 14 (Reuters) – An Italian judge on Thursday suspended the trial of four Egyptian security officials for the disappearance and murder of an Italian student killed in Egypt, fearing the men would not know they were charged.

The ruling means the case will now be referred back to a provisional court that will have to decide whether to try again to track down the four senior officials and hand them their judgments.

Earlier on Thursday, a prosecutor said Italy had made numerous efforts to track down the suspects in the murder of Giulio Regeni, accusing Egypt of failing to reveal their whereabouts and repeatedly undermining the investigation.

However, after more than seven hours of deliberation, Judge Antonella Capri ruled in favor of the court-appointed defense lawyers, who had argued that the trial would be null if there was no evidence the four Egyptians knew about the case.

Regeni’s family was deeply upset by the decision, said her lawyer Alessandra Ballerini.

“It’s a setback, but we’re not going to give up. We demand that those who tortured and killed Giulio do not go unpunished, ”the lawyer told reporters after the verdict.

Regeni, a PhD student at Cambridge University, UK, disappeared in Cairo in January 2016. His body was found almost a week later and an autopsy revealed that he had been brutally tortured before he died.

Italian and Egyptian prosecutors investigated the case jointly, but the two sides later fell out and came to very different conclusions.

Italian prosecutors say Major Magdi Sharif of the Egyptian secret service, Major General Tarek Sabir, the former head of state security, Colonel Hisham Helmy and Colonel Ather Kamal, a former chief investigator in Cairo, are responsible for the “serious kidnapping” “of Regeni.

Sharif has also been accused of “conspiracy to commit serious murder”.

The suspects never publicly responded to the allegations, and Egyptian police and officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in Regeni’s disappearance and killing. Continue reading

LACK OF EVIDENCE

Prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco had previously set 13 points to the court that he believed illustrated how Egypt first tried to sabotage the investigation and then prevented the suspects from being officially informed of the charges.

He said Egyptian investigators hesitated on the case, ignoring 39 of 64 separate requests for information. He said the material handed over was often useless, such as videos from the subway station Regeni disappeared into and which was blank for the 20 minutes he was there.

“There was a full recording from the day before and the day after. Of course it could be a coincidence,” he said.

He added that Italy had tried around 30 times to get to the addresses of the suspects through diplomatic and state channels.

“I don’t think it was humanly possible to do more (to find the officials),” said Colaiocco, adding that the case was so well known that it was impossible to imagine they didn’t know about it.

Regeni had been in Cairo to research Egypt’s independent trade unions for his doctoral thesis. Employees say he is also interested in the longstanding dominance of the Egyptian economy by the state and the military. Both issues are sensitive in Egypt.

The Egyptian police initially said Regeni was killed in a traffic accident. They later said he was kidnapped by gangsters who were subsequently killed in a shootout.

Additional coverage from Marco Carta; Adaptation by William Maclean and Alistair Bell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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