Wednesday, December 8

Italian judge suspends Giulio Regeni trial and orders police to find defendants

A Rome judge stopped the trial of four high-ranking members of Egypt’s security forces on its opening day Thursday, saying there was no certainty that they had been officially informed that they were accused of kidnapping, torture. and murder in Cairo of an Italian doctorate. student.

Citing the need to guarantee a fair trial, Judge Antonella Capri annulled the decision to prosecute the four and ordered the return of the documentation to the magistrates, who must try again to locate the suspects. His decision was a severe blow to prosecutors who have been trying to bring Giulio Regeni’s killers to justice for five years.

Regeni’s body was found on a road days after her disappearance in the Egyptian capital on January 25, 2016. She was in Cairo to investigate union activities among street vendors as part of her doctoral thesis.

Regeni’s mother has said that her body was so mutilated by the torture that she could only recognize the tip of her nose when she saw it. Human rights activists have said that the marks on his body resembled those resulting from widespread torture at the premises of the Egyptian Security Agency.

Italian prosecutors had charged Police Commander Sherif Magdy; Police Major General Tareq Saber, who was a senior official in the national security agency at the time of Regeni’s abduction; Colonel Hesham Helmy, who was serving in a security center in charge of policing the Cairo district where the Italian lived, and Colonel Acer Kamal, who headed a police department in charge of operation and discipline on the streets.

Defense attorneys had asked for the trial to be suspended, saying their clients had never been formally notified of the charges because they never provided addresses and were therefore technically “untraceable.” Four empty chairs were left for them in the courtroom of the Rebibbia bunker in Rome on Thursday.

“In Italy, there can be a trial for identifiable persons only, the trial for an untraceable person must be suspended,” defense attorney Annalisa Ticconi told reporters outside the court.

“Year after year there will be checks to see if the person can be found and the trial could be restarted, but in the meantime the trial and the evidence are frozen,” he said.

Capri agreed, saying that the law and the rights of the defense require her to be “sure” that the defendants know the charges and the date of the trial, and that it is not enough to “presume” that she does.

Prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco had argued that the four knew very well that the trial was beginning and yet they did not appear. Prosecutors have for years denounced Egypt’s obstructionism by refusing to cooperate with the investigation, and Colaiocco accused the four of “deliberately avoiding this trial and hoping that the trial would therefore stall and not proceed.”

Regeni’s parents and sister were in the courtroom for the hearing, but did not comment.

His lawyer, Alessandra Ballerini, took note of Capri’s decision “bitterly.” Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom on Thursday night, he said Egypt’s “obstructionism and arrogance” had been rewarded, but vowed that the family’s quest for justice would not stop and that only delayed a few months.

He urged that the case, especially the names of the defendants, be published “so that they cannot say they did not know.”

“We know that sooner or later we will have satisfaction,” he said.

The Italian government announced on the eve of the trial that it would join the civil part of the trial as an aggrieved party in the case.

Egyptian authorities have alleged that the Cambridge University PhD student was the victim of common thieves.

The case strained relations between Italy and Egypt, an ally of Rome in efforts to combat terrorism. At one point, Italy withdrew its ambassador to press for Egyptian cooperation in the investigation.

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