An Italian doctoral student conducting fieldwork in Egypt was tortured and heavily beaten for days before his neck was broken, killing him.
The body of doctoral student Giulio Regeni was found naked from the waist down, in a ditch near a highway outside Cairo, six days ago on February 2 – nine days after he was reported missing. His body was showing evidence of ‘inhumane and animal-like torture’ indicating a slow, horrific death, according to a post-mortem.
The 28-year-old Italian national was studying for a PhD at the University of Cambridge, in the UK. He was carrying out research on the formation of independent trade unions in post-Mubarak Egypt, at the time of his death.
After reviewing autopsy results, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Mr Regeni had suffered “something inhuman, animal-like and unacceptable violence,” The Telegraph reported.
Italy’s ambassador in Cairo Maurizio Massari said he was devastated by the condition of Mr Regeni’s body, which had more than two dozen broken bones, as well as bruises and burn marks, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
“There is no doubt that the young man was heavily beaten and tortured,” Ambassador Massari said.
Mr Regeni was living in Cairo to do research for a Cambridge University doctorate when he disappeared on January 25, the anniversary of the ‘Arab Spring’ – Egypt’s 2011 uprising, a wave of demonstrations and protests, riots, and civil wars in the Arab world.
He had been had been seeking contacts for trade union activists to interview as part of his research, and had published an article in the Italian leftist newspaper Il Manifesto, but under a pseudonym.
The student was last seen when he left his home with the intention of travelling by metro to meet a friend in the city centre.
Mr Regeni‘s work would have been extremely important in his field, and he had a career ahead of him as an important scholar of the region, fellow students say.
An Italian doctoral student who was classmates and flatmates with Mr Regeni in Damascus, Alessandro Columbu said he was concerned there could be a cover up of the circumstances surrounding Mr Regeni’s death, especially given Italy’s recent embrace of Egypt as an economic partner and ally in the fight against terrorism.
“Egypt and Italy are friends, and this terrible story exposes a double standard in western European foreign policy: He was abducted by security forces in central Cairo and tortured to death.
Mr Columbu added tellingly, “Unfortunately it takes a white, European to die to expose something that is happening to Egyptians all the time.”
The Italian and Egyptian authorities have announced a joint investigation into Mr Regeni’s death. Whether there is any serious attempt to uncover who killed him and why remains to be seen. We suspect not. Like so many other deaths in Egypt today, he will become just one more statistic.