The trial of Egyptians accused of murdering a student in Italy has been halted by an Italian court.
The prosecution of four Egyptian security agents in Rome for the gruesome killing of Italian student Giulio Regeni five years ago was thrown out by judges on Thursday, hurting his family “bitterly.”
A court-appointed defense lawyer told AFP that the four could not be tried in their absence since prosecutors had been unable to officially tell them about the judicial process against them.
In the case, which has provoked indignation in Italy and damaged diplomatic relations with Egypt, the officers are accused of kidnapping, conspiracy to murder, and severe bodily harm.
“We observe with bitterness the court’s judgment, which honors Egyptian arrogance,” Alessandra Ballerini, the Regeni family’s lawyer, said outside the court.
“It’s a setback,” she remarked, “but we’re not giving up.”
Regeni’s parents and sister had attended the hearing in Rebibbia prison’s underground chamber, which is frequently used for mafia cases.
When the 28-year-old was kidnapped in Cairo in January 2016, he was pursuing research for a doctorate at Cambridge University.
His body was later discovered dumped on the outskirts of Cairo, naked from the waist down, with considerable evidence of torture.
In a symbolic show of solidarity, the Italian government joined the proceedings with a civil claim for damages.
However, before the trial could begin, the court had to decide if the four accused, all of whom are personnel of Egypt’s National Security Agency (NSA), were aware of the charges leveled against them. Egypt has consistently declined to disclose contact information.
A judge determined at a preliminary hearing in May that media coverage meant they would have heard about the trial.
On Thursday, however, the court overruled that decision, thus returning the prosecution to square one.
General Tariq Sabir, Colonels Athar Kamel and Uhsam Helmi, and Major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif, who is suspected of carrying out the killing, are listed in court documents.
Regeni was allegedly kidnapped and slain after being mistaken for a foreign spy, according to investigators.
Eye witness testimony and other “strong bits of proof” implicated the security agents in the murder, according to prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco.
He claimed that all four were aware of the trial and had “systematically and repeatedly acted to hinder and block the investigation.”
Colonel Kamel’s lawyer, Tranquillino Sarno, who was chosen by the court to represent him, believes the case should be dismissed.
“The defendants have no idea.” That is not what they have been accused of. That is not the case. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.