March 28, 2016
In Guilio Regeni’s murder investigation, Egyptian officials don’t seem to care about credibility
by Kait Howard
When Egyptian officials undertook the investigation into the torturing and murder of Italian journalist Giulio Regeni in Cairo in early February, Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi warned that he wouldn’t accept “convenient truth” in place of the full story.
Regeni, a Cambridge University student who had been investigating labor organization in Egypt, was found dead on February 3rd, last seen by witnesses when he was picked up by Egyptian police on January 25th. In recent weeks, Egyptian forensics and prosecution officials had confirmed that he was tortured over a period of five to seven days, and the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for “total cooperation” of Egyptian investigators with the Italian government.
On Thursday, Egyptian officials delivered an explanation for the killing of such fanciful convenience that it’s hard to imagine who would believe it. As Ruth Michaelson and Stephanie Kirchgaessner reported in the Guardian, “Egyptian officials said police had targeted four men ‘specialised in impersonating policemen, kidnapping foreigners and stealing their money’ and ‘in an exchange of fire between police forces and the men, all the gang members were killed.’”
The announcement—coming from officials in a country where dissidents are regularly harassed, jailed, and disappeared—was quickly dismissed by Italian politicians for lacking credibility. In fact, it’s difficult to read it as anything other than a smack in the face to those around the world demanding justice, not to mention Egyptians whose government expects its citizens to live in an alternate reality where eyewitness accounts are easily debunked and motives are irrelevant.
The only evidence the Egyptian officials offered to support their version of events was a photo of Regeni’s belongings, including IDs, wallet, sunglasses, and a second wallet (someone else’s?) emblazoned with the word “love,” which were purportedly found in the house of one of the gang members. (Strangely, one of the photos seems to show a child’s hands in the background, though, as the Guardian article noted, Egyptian brigadier general Hatham Fathy denied a child had been present when the shots were taken.)
According to Michaelson and Kirchgaessner, the Italian news agency Ansa, “citing unnamed Italian investigators and prosecutors involved in the case,” described three inconsistencies in the Egyptian officials’ version of events: “it was not seen as credible that a band of kidnappers would have maintained Regeni’s documents and risked discovery if they had killed him; it was seen as unbelievable that kidnappers who were looking for money would have tortured him for over a week; and there were doubts about the alleged firefight that killed the men who purportedly killed Regeni.” But even numbering the inconsistencies seems absurd.
Surprisingly, no one seems to have raised questions about the motives behind the four new deaths—that’s if one assumes they aren’t fabricated. And somehow one doesn’t.
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.