Giulio Regeni’s last messages before his death in Egypt counter spy claims

The Facebook messages written by the Cambridge pupil Giulio Regeni in the weeks main as much as his homicide give the mislead any notion he was a spy or political agitator.

Even before he left England, Regeni was involved concerning the dangers he would possibly face doing his thesis on commerce unions in Egypt, a delicate topic in the nation.

But the 28-year-old thought the worst that might occur can be for him to be deported before he may end his analysis.

Instead, he was snatched off the street and tortured and his semi-naked physique dumped by the roadside in a brutal killing for which 4 Egyptian safety officers are due to stand trial in Italy in October.

“Egypt is in a difficult state right now,” he wrote before leaving for Cairo, in messages shared with the Guardian by his good friend. “The dictatorship is back and until recently it wasn’t clear how brutal it was going to become. It seems that it’s ‘stabilising’ now … this state of affairs is very precarious.”

Enforced disappearances are a day by day incidence below Egypt’s hardline president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Last 12 months, the nation’s human rights fee reported 2,723 enforced disappearances in the past five years, a few of whom have been tortured and shot.

Giulio Regeni in Oxford, UK, in 2014. Photograph: Handout

Regeni is uncommon as a result of he was a foreigner, an Italian PhD pupil at Girton College who moved to Cairo in September 2015 to work on a growth research thesis about impartial commerce unions.

It was a sensitive topic in a rustic that had seen an enormous rise in employee illustration in the course of the Arab spring, which swept Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood chief, to energy in 2012.

Twelve months later, Morsi was toppled in a coup that finally put in the previous normal, Sisi, because the nation’s chief, in a return to navy rule.

Regeni, who had beforehand studied Arabic and politics at Leeds University, determined to analysis his thesis in Cairo from September 2015 to March 2016, with a two-week break at house with his household for Christmas in Fiumicello, north-east Italy.

In October, a month after his arrival, he described commerce unions as “the only remaining force in civil society”.

He focused on the road distributors, of whom there have been about 6 million, who had arrange a union to fight authorities crackdowns. Regeni mentioned the state of affairs in Cairo was “depressing, but not manic like 2013”.

“This doesn’t feel like it’s going to be another 30 years,” he added, in reference to the size of rule of the earlier military chief, Hosni Mubarak.

But issues took a worrying flip when, at a gathering of union activists, Regeni noticed a veiled younger lady taking his image on her telephone, which made him concern he was below surveillance.

Street vendors in the central Attaba district of Cairo, on February 2021
Street distributors in the central Attaba district of Cairo, on February 2021. Regeni’s work focussed on them whereas he was in Egypt. Photograph: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

He was additionally getting irritated by distributors hassling him for cellphones and the top of their union asking for cash for household medical payments. When the scholar mentioned he couldn’t assist, Mohamed Abdallah reported him to police, later claiming he thought he was a spy.

In one in every of his last Facebook messages, Regeni requested for assist with his English in a paper he had written.

Five days later he was snatched off the road on his approach to a night out.

Nine days after that his physique was discovered, dumped on the facet of the Cairo-Alexandria freeway. He had been tortured; crushed, burned and stabbed before his neck was damaged after he was struck from behind with a heavy, blunt object.

His accidents have been so extreme that when his mom, Paola, noticed his physique she may solely recognise him from the “tip of his nose”.

What adopted was an obvious cover-up by the authorities. President Sisi, in an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, vowed to trace down the culprits. Instead it was then claimed there had been a theft by a gang, all now useless.

But Italian investigators discovered phone records that showed the leader of the gang – all killed in a police shootout – was not even in Cairo on the time Regeni disappeared. They concluded the scholar’s identification paperwork had been planted at one in every of their addresses.

In massive half as a consequence of eyewitnesses coming ahead to say they noticed Regeni being interrogated on the National Security Agency headquarters, an Italian choose last month mentioned the four senior Egyptian security officials should stand trial. Gen Tariq Sabir, Col Usham Helmi, Col Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim and Maj Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif face fees of aggravated kidnapping. Sharif can also be being accused of conspiracy to commit homicide.

Egypt has closed the case and refuses to extradite the suspects to Italy, so the trial will go forward with out them.

Regeni and Johannes Svensson
Regeni with Johannes Svensson, who he shared a flat with in Cairo. Photograph: Handout

Johannes Svensson shared a flat in Cairo with Regeni whereas he was working for a UN company in 2013, on the time Morsi was overthrown.

“He was interested in how this group of street vendors, who you might suspect are quite weak, organises itself in an efficient way and manages to have some political leverage.”

Regeni was an educational, not a political agitator, says Svensson.

In truth, he described Regeni because the “cautious” one once they have been collectively on the streets in July 2013 to witness the celebrations after Morsi’s overthrow.

Since his death, Regeni has turn into a martyr – or shahid – for the disappeared in Sisi’s Egypt.

“That’s why there’s graffiti of him in Cairo,” says Regeni’s nameless Facebook good friend. “He is a representative figure of that.”

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