When Giulio Regeni’s mutilated body was found in a ditch near Cairo in February 2016, it was so badly disfigured that his mother struggled to identify him.
Five years later, four members of Egypt’s security forces will stand trial in absentia on Thursday, accused of kidnapping, torturing, and killing the student.
The Egyptian authorities deny the allegations made by the Italians.
Regeni’s parents will attend the trial in Rome in order to learn what caused his death.
On January 25, 2016, the 28-year-old student was abducted while conducting research for his PhD at Cambridge on Egypt’s independent trade unions. His body was discovered on the road to Alexandria a week later.
Egyptian authorities obstructed the Italian prosecution by fabricating wild stories about the murder, including a failed drug deal, a botched robbery, and even a gay crime of passion.
However, Italian prosecutors concluded that the murder was carried out by Egypt’s national security agency.
They claimed Regeni had been under surveillance for several weeks and had been identified as a spy by a Cairo street trade unionist. According to Rome prosecutors, he was kicked, punched, cut, burned with red-hot objects, and beaten with sticks before dying.
Gen Tariq Sabir, Col Usham Helmi, Col Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim, and Maj Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif, the four defendants, all deny kidnapping Regeni. Maj Sharif denies a new charge of conspiring to inflict aggravated injuries and murder.
The murder sparked widespread outrage and a crisis in Italy-Egypt relations, with the Italian ambassador being summoned.
Egypt has since dropped its own investigation, citing “insufficient evidence,” according to top prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi. Despite Egyptian authorities admitting that Regeni had been watched and betrayed by people he met, they refused to provide Italy with the defendants’ addresses.
The Italian ambassador has returned to Cairo, and President Abdel Fattah al-government Sisi’s appears to have received no negative reaction.
Claudio Regeni and Paola Deffendi, the murdered student’s parents, have accused the Italian government of betrayal for resuming normal relations with Egypt and selling two frigates as part of a large arms deal.
Meanwhile, political foes continue to vanish. Egypt’s Commission for Rights and Freedoms stated in a report last year that it had documented over 2,700 enforced disappearances since 2015.
Earlier this year, Alessandra Ballerini, the lawyer representing the murdered student’s parents, stated that all of Giulio Regeni’s human rights had been violated. They had the “well-founded hope that at least the right to truth will not be violated” now that a trial was underway.