The death of Cambridge academic Giulio Regeni has caused considerable controversy, with still very little known two years after his death. The most recent update is that the University of Cambridge – who in the past have been criticised for an apparent lack of urgency in investigating the case – have denounced what they refer to as a ‘campaign of denigration’ against one of its members of staff, who has been accused of contributing to the death of Regeni. This denouncement has come as part of a lengthy statement that addressed the case. Read on for the full story. Please note this article contains disturbing content.
We begin back in January 2015. Giulio Regeni was an Italian PhD student at Girton College, University of Cambridge. Regeni was researching independent trade unions in Egypt, being a visiting scholar at the American University in Cairo. In recent years, trade unions have become a politically sensitive subject. Regeni was due to meet a friend on January 25, however he didn’t appear. His body was eventually found in early February, with an autopsy finding he had been extensively tortured prior to his death.
Regeni’s body had been covered in bruises and cuts, with several broken bones found. The letter ‘X’ had been carved into his forehead and hand. Accusations have mainly been made against Egypt’s security services, though they deny any wrongdoing, including that Regeni had died in their custody. The Egyptian security services have confirmed they had monitored Regeni, suggesting no further action had been taken. Yet some sources suggested he had been in Police custody prior to his death. In the aftermath of Regeni’s death, Italian investigators launched a murder inquiry.
Autopsies were completed, with one suggesting he had been tortured for up to seven days. The official Egyptian autopsy hasn’t been made public. Italian investigators found it difficult to investigate – with crucial CCTV having been deleted. Egypt’s response was that a criminal gang had been responsible for both his kidnapping and murder. Egyptian authorities went on to say they had subsequently killed the entire gang in a shootout. This suggestion has been met with considerable doubt. Investigations have continued.
Recent developments date back to early November, when Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper made allegations to suggest Dr. Maha Abdelrahman – a fellow academic at Cambridge – was partially responsible for Regeni’s death. They accused Abdelrahman of allowing a ‘dangerous’ topic to be researched by Regeni. This led to the statement being released by the University of Cambridge, which has defended Dr Abdelrahman. The statement suggested there have been ‘concerted efforts’ against the academic, despite her willingness to cooperate with investigations.
Dr. Abdelrahman has been questioned three times by Italian investigators, which has also included her handing over her computer and mobile phone for examination. There has been ongoing speculation over her role, with investigators ostensibly trying to determine her role within the research of Regeni. Dr. Abdelrahman was previously a professor in Cairo, with Egypt her home country. Hundreds of academics have defended Dr. Abdelrahman, with Cambridge now also throwing their weight behind the academic via this statement.
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This has been a very unfortunate case, with still very few answers provided. While accusations against Abdelrahman have been made, Cambridge University has shown substantial support to her. Most accusations have been directed at Egyptian security services, with many questions regarding Regeni’s final days. Yet others suggest Abdelrahman gave the green light to a topic that she knew could put Regeni in direct harm. Hopefully justice will follow in the near future, though several questions remain.