Unanswered questions in Giulio Regeni’s case

Ziad A. Akl
6 Min Read

I wrote about Regeni’s case almost two months ago when his body was found dumped near one of Cairo’s highways. What I wrote back then was more of an inquiry on what researchers, academics, journalists, and anyone else interested in the social and political research industry should do after Regeni’s dramatic death.

Although the death of Regeni had various implications for issues related to human rights, freedom of expression, academic freedoms, and public safety, the case raised questions about state’s conduct and the role of the state’s security apparatus in Regeni’s death.

Ziad A. Akl
Ziad A. Akl

Until today, those questions remain unanswered. In fact, the manner in which the state has handled this case so far raises more questions than the ones raised when Regeni’s body was found.

No tangible breakthroughs were made in Regeni’s investigation, and the state’s investigative authorities in the case took no truly effective measures. Other than fabricated scenarios resting on a defunct logic that does not add up, no truths were offered by the state about the investigation and no proper progress reports were publicised.

Until today, the only source of sound or coherent information about the investigation of Regeni’s murder comes from Italian newspapers. The lack of sufficient information is not surprising. After all, Egyptian security institutions are not known to have a strong track record in issues related to freedom of information or principles of transparency. But the ongoing discrepancy and confusion so obvious in statements made by security officials about the case is alarming.

A few hours after Regeni’s body was found, a security official stated that Giulio died in an accident without any criminal implications. After the autopsy report was issued, security officials began resorting to the standard conspiracy-based justification so common in such cases.

The conspiracy theory approach is usually twofold. On one hand, it relies on explaining the events as a conspiracy orchestrated by the regime’s enemies, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood or terrorists at large. On the other hand, justifications related to Regeni’s espionage-related intentions start to appear.

Last week, Egyptian security officials presented the world with a new explanation, a gang targeting foreigners. The alleged gang was shot down in a confrontation with the police, and the police managed to find Regeni’s belongings at the house of the sister of one of the gang members. However, what security officials have perceived as an investigative breakthrough and formidable evidence simply did not make any sense to the whole world. After celebrating solving Regeni’s case, the Ministry of Interior denied stating that the gang is responsible for Regeni’s murder.

Regardless of the vast details of the Ministry of Interior’s performance in Regeni’s case, those contrasting statements only prove that Egyptian security institutions are more interested in finding an exit or a scapegoat that would help them save face rather than the actual disclosure of the truth.

Another important question is the extent of self-motivation that the Ministry of Interior has displayed in Regeni’s case. In other words, without the ongoing pressure from the Italian government and media, would the Ministry of Interior vest the same interest in solving the case? Cases of enforced disappearances and torture are quite frequent in Egypt, specifically over the past couple of years, but the majority of those cases did not receive half the attention that Regeni’s case received.

Once again, matching the course of action in Regeni’s case with the pattern of behaviour in similar cases only demonstrates that the Egyptian security apparatus is handling Regeni’s case from a mere crisis management perspective rather than a duty and accountability one.

So far, it seems that the Ministry of Interior is doing its best to either manufacture plausible but untrue scenarios or simply survive the wave of international pressure until it passes like a storm in a teacup.

I personally believe that it is highly unlikely that Regeni’s murder has any criminal implications. I also believe that the manner in which he disappeared and the manner in which his body was dumped is a recurrent pattern that Egypt has known for many years, one that has been associated for a very long time with state reckless violence.

I could easily be proven wrong by logical explanations and solid evidence. But explanations based on foreign conspiracies and hostile intentions towards the prosperity of the Egyptian state will yield nothing other than further scepticism and more acute diversion from the truth. Finally, maintaining the pressure applied on the Ministry of Interior to unravel the truth about Regeni’s murder is an important step towards disclosing the truth about the death and disappearance of thousands of Egyptians.

Ziad A. Akl is a political analyst and sociologist. He is a senior researcher at the Egyptian Studies Unit in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

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Ziad A. Akl is a political analyst and sociologist. He is a senior researcher at the Egyptian Studies Unit in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.