New Italian ambassador to be accompanied by ‘special investigator’ to Cairo

The death of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016 remains unsolved, but the Italian government says the presence of a special investigator in Egypt will help establish the truth of what happened to the PhD student.

New Italian ambassador to be accompanied by 'special investigator' to Cairo
A file photos shows an image of Giulio Regeni at a vigil to remember his death. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

A special magistrate or police judicial investigator will accompany Italy's new ambassador to Egypt to Cairo, according to Il Messaggero.

The special envoy's task will be to place political pressure on Egypt's government to resolve Regeni's case and to follow the investigations of local authorities more closely.

The Italian government announced last week that it would be sending a new ambassador to Cairo, more than a year after it suspended diplomatic relations with Egypt over the Regeni case.

The diplomatic fall out occurred after the Italian researcher and journalist disappeared while on a work assignment in Cairo. His mutilated body was discovered beside a highway in Cairo in February 2016.  

Regeni, a Cambridge University PhD student, was researching trade unions in Egypt and Italy has rejected the theories Egyptian investigators have suggested, including a road accident and an 'anti-foreigner' criminal gang.

Italian politicians and the media have suggested that Egyptian police were behind the student's death.

And according to a report in the New York Times published on August 16, 2017, the Obama administration passed on intelligence to former Italian PM Matteo Renzi, placing responsibility for Regeni's murder within Sisi's forces.

“We had incontrovertible evidence of official Egyptian responsibility,’’ an Obama administration official told The New York Times.

According to La Stampa, Renzi contacted Italy's current PM Paolo Gentiloni (then foreign affairs minister) to deny that Obama ever gave him any specific intelligence on the case.

The same report alleges that Gentiloni denied receiving any “explosive evidence” at the time, although he did admit to discussing Regeni's case with his US counterpart John Kerry. 

Cairo and Rome had begun to heal the rift caused by Regeni's disappearance when the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi consented to Italian experts in Cairo in January this year. CCTV experts were sent to Egypt to review footage of where Regeni was last seen alive. Egypt also says it sent key evidence to Rome in May. 

So Italy will attempt to reengage with Cairo to resolve the impasse, albeit with terms and conditions.

A report in Repubblica says Italy's new ambassador to Egypt Gianpaolo Cantini was handed specific instructions with a long list of rules of engagement for the new role by Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano.

The letter apparently includes a whole paragraph on how to handle the ongoing investigation into Regeni's death. 

“We understand how the [Regeni] family feel but for more than a year now, the absence of our ambassador was no longer a pressure tool but had become the opposite: a smoking gun,” the letter states, according to a confidential source cited in Repubblica.

Italy needed to reassess its relationship with Egypt in light of the latter's renewed friendship with the USA, via the Trump administration, and improved relations with France, the UK, Russia and Saudi Arabia, according to the same source. 

Regeni's family released a statement saying they were “outraged” that Italy is sending an ambassador again to Cairo, according to media reports. 

“We have reached an important point in the investigation,” Claudio Regeni, Giulio's father, told Radio Rai, according to Il Fatto Quotidiano report.  “We have three names of Egyptian officials who were definitely involved and I think with greater pressure on the Egyptian government we can reach the truth.”

READ MORE: Italy anger mounts over Cairo student's torturous death