Regeni spoke of great Egypt repression friend tells trial

Giulio Regeni, the Italian doctoral student tortured to death in Cairo between January and February 2016, spoke of “very much political repression” in Egypt shortly before his abduction and said he was glad to be returning to Cambridge that spring, a friend told a Rome trial of four Egyptian intelligence officers Tuesday.

“The last time we spoke, on 16 January 2016 via chat, he told me that there was a lot of political repression in Egypt and he was happy to return to Cambridge in the spring”, the female friend told the trial in absentia of National Security General Tariq Sabir and his subordinates, Colonels Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim and Uhsam Helmi, and Major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif.

The friend, a prosecution witness, then recounted a meeting she had with Regeni at Christmas 2015.

“We saw each other, he told me about his research in Cairo, that he was spending a lot of time with street vendors, that he kept a very low profile, that he was very tired,” she said.

Regeni, 28, is believed to have been killed due to the politically sensitive nature of his research for the British university, into independent street vendor trade unions.

One of the union chiefs reportedly fingered him as spy.

He was tortured to death between January 25 and February 3 2016.

Regeni, from a small town near Udine in northeastern Italy, was tortured so badly that his mother Paola Deffendi said she could only recognise him “from the tip of his nose”.

Deffendi said “all the evil in the world” was visited on her son’s body.

His body, according to an Italian autopsy, showed signs of extreme torture: contusions and abrasions all over from a severe beating; extensive bruising from kicks, punches, and assault with a stick; more than two dozen bone fractures, among them seven broken ribs, all fingers and toes, as well as legs, arms, and shoulder blades; multiple stab wounds on the body including the soles of the feet, possibly from an ice pick or awl-like instrument; numerous cuts over the entire body made with a sharp instrument suspected to be a razor; extensive cigarette burns; a larger burn mark between the shoulder blades made with a hard and hot object; a brain haemorrhage; and a broken cervical vertebra, which ultimately caused death.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with whom Premier Giorgia Meloni recently negotiated a deal for funding in return for stopping migrants leaving for Italy, has repeatedly issued vain promises to cooperate in the case.

The four officers are on trial even though it has proved impossible, due to Egyptian lack of cooperation, to inform them of the proceedings.