Italy puts 4 Egyptians under investigation in torture death

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FILE - In this April 24, 2016 file photo, Amnesty International activists stage a flash mob asking for truth on the death in Egypt of Italian student Giulio Regeni, in front of Milan's city hall, Italy. Italian prosecutors on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 formally put three high-ranking members of Egypts national security force and one police officer under investigation in the 2016 kidnapping, torture and killing of an Italian youth doing doctoral research in Cairo. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, file)

ROME – Italian prosecutors on Thursday formally put four high-ranking members of Egypt’s security forces under investigation over the 2016 kidnapping, torture and killing of an Italian doctoral research student in Cairo.

Rome prosecutor Michele Prestipino told a special parliamentary commission on the slaying of Giulio Regeni, 28, that his office formally closed the criminal probe earlier in the day, paving the way for possible trial indictment of the suspects, including in absentia.

The four suspects are being investigated for alleged kidnapping and one of them also is being investigated for aggravated injury and aggravated murder, Prestipino said. The investigation against another member of Egypt’s national security force was shelved due to insufficient proof, he told lawmakers.

The case strained relations between Italy and Egypt, an ally in the crackdown on migrant trafficking across the Mediterranean and in efforts to combat terrorism. At one point, Italy withdrew its ambassador to protest perceived reluctance by Egypt to reach the truth.

Prosecutors have indicated that Egyptian security officials suspected Regeni was aiming to foment a revolution, and might have been working for U.S. or Israeli intelligence.

As late as last month, Egyptian prosecutors were insisting that Regeni's killer remains unknown. Egyptian authorities have alleged that the Cambridge University doctoral student fell victim to ordinary robbers.

“The Rome prosecutor's office has stuck firm to the commitment to do everything to ascertain every responsibility,” Prestipino told the commission. “We owed it to the memory of Giulio Regeni and to being magistrates of this Republic.”

He told the lawmakers, many of whom have insisted Rome should keep up diplomatic pressure on Egypt for judicial cooperation: "We contend that we have obtained unmistakable and significant elements of proof of the responsibilities of those under investigation.”