Italy prosecutes 4 over student murder but upset at lack of European solidarity

Prosecutors charged four members of the Egyptian security forces with the kidnap, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni.

Italy prosecutes 4 over student murder but upset at lack of European solidarity

ROME — Italy has moved a step closer toward justice for murdered doctoral student Giulio Regeni, but is concerned that its European allies aren’t providing support. 

Prosecutors in Rome on Thursday charged four members of the Egyptian security forces with the kidnap, torture and murder of Ph.D. student Regeni, whose body was found on the side of a highway on the outskirts of Cairo in February 2016.

Michele Prestipino Giarritta, Rome’s chief prosecutor, said at an Italian parliamentary commission hearing on Thursday: “This is an extremely important result,” and added that “we owed it to Giulio’s memory.”

But politicians and campaigners lamented a lack of solidarity from Italy’s neighbors, which they say continues to undermine efforts to get to the truth. 

Other European countries did not join Italy in recalling their ambassadors to Egypt after the murder, restricting themselves to statements of disapproval, and France this week rolled out the red carpet for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. French President Emmanuel Macron said at a press conference that he had addressed human rights with el-Sisi, but “won’t make our defense and economic cooperation conditional upon these [human rights] disagreements.”

The head of the parliamentary commission investigating the murder, Emanuele Palazzotto, has called for joint European action and an investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. 

The Regeni case strained diplomatic relations between Italy and Egypt, with Cairo providing conflicting explanations for his death and its prosecutors saying there is not enough evidence to try the four men. They could be tried in absentia by the Rome court. 

Egyptian authorities have also not provided the addresses of the suspects, Italian prosecutors said, so indictments had to be served to their state-appointed defense lawyers in Italy instead. 

Roberto Fico, speaker of Italy’s lower house of parliament, said the recent visit of el-Sisi to France demonstrated “weakness” in the European alliance.

At a press conference in Rome following the announcement of the indictments, he said: “Regeni’s case and the difficulty of reaching the truth hold up a mirror to the weaknesses of our European system.”

He added: “If Europe were united, if Italy and France had wanted the same things and had a common foreign policy, no one would have been able to ignore them and put them aside. The truth about [Regeni] would have come out a long time ago.”

Eric Jozsef, spokesman for the campaign group Europa Now, which has pushed for a common EU approach on human rights, said Italy had been abandoned by Europe, particularly France. 

He said: “The Regeni case is emblematic. He was a European citizen and European countries should speak with one voice, making human rights a condition of trade.” 

“Citizens should demand their governments raise it with Egypt at every opportunity,” he added. 

However, the Italian government’s own actions have come in for criticism. In June, Regeni’s family hit out at an arms deal between Italy and Egypt worth an estimated $1.2 billion.