An Italian court is due to decide on Tuesday if four high-ranking members of Egypt’s security forces should go on trial for the abduction, torture and killing of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016.
The preliminary court hearing was initially scheduled to take place last month but was postponed because one of the defendants’ lawyer had tested positive for COVID-19.
If the trial is allowed to proceed, the four Egyptian suspects are unlikely to be extradited and court proceedings will take place in their absence.
Regeni, 28, was abducted by assailants in Cairo in January 2016, and his mutilated body was found several days later in the city’s suburbs.
The Cambridge University doctoral student had been researching Egyptian trade unions, a very sensitive subject in the country.
Four men, including a general and major within Egypt’s National Security Agency, are suspected of kidnapping, grievous bodily harm, and conspiracy to commit murder, Rome has said.
His mother later said Regeni’s body was so mutilated that she was only able to recognize the tip of his nose. The torture marks resembled those resulting from widespread torture practices in Egyptian facilities, according to activists and rights groups.
Prosecutors have indicated that Egyptian security officials suspected that Regeni was aiming to foment a revolution and that he might have been working for US or Israeli intelligence services.
Egyptian authorities have denied the allegations and claimed that the student fell victim to ordinary robbers.
The case has strained relations between Rome and Cairo, which have long been allied in the fight against terrorism. In 2016, Italy withdrew its ambassador to protest against perceived reluctance by Egypt to investigate properly.
Egyptian public prosecutor’s office decided to release the four men from detention last year, also dropping investigations against a fifth suspected officer. Rome called the move “unacceptable.”
“We expect a full and adequate response from the Egyptian authorities, who have been relentlessly urged to do so by our diplomacy,” said Italian President Sergio Mattarella last January as the country commemorated the fifth anniversary of Regeni’s death.