Retired police general among 5 Egyptians being investigated by Italy in student’s murder

A man holds a placard during a vigil to commemorate Giulio Regeni, who was found murdered in Cairo a year ago, in downtown Rome, Italy, on January 25, 2017. (REUTERS/file photo)
Updated 05 December 2018
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Retired police general among 5 Egyptians being investigated by Italy in student’s murder

  • Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge University graduate student who was researching trade unions in Egypt, disappeared in Cairo on January 25, 2016 and was found dead later
  • The five Egyptian officials under investigation in Italy are a now-retired major general and a major at the domestic security agency, two police colonels and a junior police officer, according to security officials in Cairo

ROME: Prosecutors in Rome on Tuesday formally opened an investigation into five Egyptian domestic secret service members and police investigators in connection with the 2016 torture and murder of an Italian researcher.

The five were being investigated on possible abduction charges related to the murder in January 2016 of 28-year-old Giulio Regeni, who was abducted and tortured for several days before his body was left on a desert highway north of Cairo. Prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco said the suspects are believed to have been active participants in Regeni’s abduction.

The launch of the investigation was likely to raise tensions with Egypt, which has already bristled at moves by Italy’s lower house to cut off parliamentary relations over the case. There was no immediate reaction from Cairo, but Egyptian prosecutors have reportedly rejected an Italian request to treat as suspects several policemen involved in the surveillance of Regeni for his work studying trade unions.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called Eygpt a “friendly country,” saying he wanted to maintain “good economic, cultural, commercial and social relations” but that “we have been waiting three years.”

The five Egyptian officials under investigation in Italy are a now-retired major general and a major at the domestic security agency, two police colonels and a junior police officer, according to security officials in Cairo. At least one of the officials has been reassigned to a remote province.

Police Maj. Gen. Tareq Saber was a top official at the domestic security agency at the time of Regeni’s abduction and killing. He retired in 2017. Police Maj. Sherif Magdy served at the same agency, and was in charge of the team that placed Regeni under surveillance.

The police officials were Col. Hesham Helmy, who served at the time of the abduction at a security center in charge of policing the Cairo district where Regeni lived; Col. Acer Kamal, who was head of a police department in charge of street works and discipline; and junior police officer Mahmoud Nejm.

Regeni, a Cambridge University graduate student who was researching trade unions in Egypt, disappeared in Cairo on January 25, 2016 — the fifth anniversary of Egypt’s popular uprising when thousands of police deployed across Cairo to pre-empt any attempt to mark the occasion. His body was found several days later by the side of a highway near Cairo with torture marks that activists and rights groups say resembled the results of widespread torture practices in Egyptian detention facilities.

Italy has been pushing Cairo for years to identify and prosecute those responsible for torturing and killing Regeni but has increased pressure as the third anniversary of his death approaches. The Foreign Ministry last week formally summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Rome to prompt Cairo to “act rapidly” on the case, following a recent meeting between Egyptian and Italian prosecutors.

Decoder


US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, photo provided by the ACLU of Montana, Martha Hernandez, left, and Ana Suda pose in front of a convenience store in Havre, Mont., where they say they were detained by a U.S Border Patrol agent for speaking Spanish last year. (AP)
Updated 11 min 23 sec ago
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US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

  • The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre

LOS ANGELES: Two US women detained by a border patrol agent in the state of Montana after he heard them speaking Spanish in a grocery store have sued the country’s border protection agency.
Video of the incident — which took place last May in the small town of Havre — showed Agent Paul O’Neal tell Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez that he had asked to see their identification as it was unusual to hear Spanish speakers in the state, which borders Canada.
“It has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it’s predominately English speaking,” he said.
“It’s not illegal, it’s just very unheard of up here,” he told the women.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre.
Suda and Hernandez say in the lawsuit that O’Neal detained them for 40 minutes.
California native Hernandez and Suda, who was born in Texas, said they were standing in line to buy milk and eggs when the agent — who was standing behind them — commented on Hernandez’s accent, and asked the women where they were born.
“I asked, ‘Are you serious’?” Suda said, according to the lawsuit. “Agent O’Neal responded that he was ‘dead serious’.”
The two women say they were then asked to show identification and questioned outside the store, before eventually being released.
“The incident itself is part of a broader pattern that we’ve seen of abusive tactics by border patrol which has gotten worse since the Trump administration, which has left border patrol officers feeling emboldened to take actions like this,” Cody Wofsy, an attorney with the ACLU, told AFP.
“This has been devastating for (Suda and Hernandez),” he added.
“Havre is a small town, they felt ostracized and humiliated and made to feel unwelcome in their own town and in their own country.”
He noted the United States has no official language, with Spanish by far the most common language spoken after English.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on the case.
“As a matter of policy, US Customs and Border Protection does not comment on pending litigation,” he told AFP in a statement. “However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.”