New witnesses in Regeni murder trial testify in Italy
Prosecutors in Rome announced that three new witnesses have come forward to accuse members of the Egyptian security apparatus of torturing and murdering Italian student Giulio Regeni in 2016, and planning in advance the staging of a robbery.
The accounts of the witnesses have been revealed as Italian prosecutors prepare for the 29 April preliminary hearing in absentia of four men accused of the murder of the student.
The preliminary hearing will determine whether National Security General Tariq Sabir and his subordinates - Colonels Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim, Uhsam Helmi and Major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif - can face trial.
Giulio Regeni's beaten and bloodied body was discovered in February 2016, dumped in a ditch at the side of a road heading to Alexandria.
According to the testimony, one of the witnesses' claimed that in an attempt to cover-up their role in Regeni's murder, the accused men staged a "robbery gone wrong".
Italian national newspaper Corriere Della Sera, reported that the witness is an Egyptian man, who is friends with trade unionist Mohamed Abdallah, whom Regeni was researching for his academic work.
The witness reportedly explained to Italian investigators how Abdallah had told him of Regeni's death the day before the body was discovered.
Abdallah also explained to him that a National Security officer had arranged for Regeni's documents to be found in the possession of a gang of robbers, who would be framed for the murder.
A month-and-a-half after Regeni's body was discovered, Egyptian authorities reported that his Italian passport and university documents had been discovered in the house of a gang leader who was "specialised in robberies and kidnappings of foreigners".
Other witnesses, who spoke to Italian prosecutors, have testified to seeing Regeni near the Dokki metro stop in Cairo, and that he was later taken to a different barracks.
According to the witnesses testimony, he approached Rome authorities after learning in Egyptian media of the Italian prosecution of the accused men.
"I decided to speak out of solidarity with his mother and to follow my conscience, in defence of so many innocents illegally incarcerated in Egypt," the witness said.
The identity of the witness, an Egyptian man, is being kept secret for security reasons. According to reports in Corriere Della Sera he volunteered himself at an Italian diplomatic office in Egypt.
The murder of Giulio Regeni created a rift in Egyptian-Italian relations, and prompted Rome to recall its ambassador from Cairo.
A recent warming in relations between the two countries, amid a continuing reluctance by the Egyptian authorities to cooperate with the investigation, has outraged Regeni’s parents.
Regeni's father, Claudio, said that the murder of his son had been put "on a secondary level", below economic, financial and military interests.
Regeni's mother also added her disappointment over the recent warming of ties between Rome and Cairo.
"Our family fight has become a fight of civilisation for human rights, which is as if Giulio were acting himself. Giulio has become a mirror that shines all over the world, showing how human rights are violated in Egypt every day," said Regeni's mother, Paola Deffendi.