Alexander Stille writes: When six senior Italian detectives arrived in Cairo in early February, following the discovery of the brutally battered body of 28-year-old Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni, they faced long odds of solving the mystery of his disappearance and death. Egyptian officials had told reporters that Regeni had probably been hit by a car, but clear signs of torture on his body had raised an alarm in Rome.
The Egyptian authorities guaranteed “full cooperation”, but this was quickly revealed to be a hollow promise. The Italians were allowed to question witnesses – but only for a few minutes, after the Egyptian police had finished their own much longer interrogations, and with the Egyptian police still in the room. The Italians requested the video footage from the metro station where Regeni last used his mobile phone, but the Egyptians allowed several days to elapse, by which time the footage from the day of his disappearance had been taped over. They also refused to share the mobile phone records from the area around Regeni’s home, where he disappeared on 25 January, and the site where his body was found nine days later.
One of the Egyptian chief investigators in charge of the Regeni case, Major General Khaled Shalaby, who told the press that there were no signs of foul play, is a controversial figure. Convicted of kidnapping and torture over a decade ago, he escaped with a suspended sentence.
The Egyptians may well have hoped that the outside world, with no independent information, would have little choice but to accept their unsatisfying explanation for Regeni’s death. But in the digital age, getting away with murder has become more difficult. [Continue reading…]