Italian prosecutors placed five members of Egypt’s security forces under official investigation for alleged involvement in the disappearance of student Giulio Regeni, a judicial source said.
Regeni, a 28-year-old post-graduate student at Cambridge University, disappeared in Cairo in January 2016. His body was found a week later and a post mortem examination showed he was tortured.
There was no immediate comment from authorities in Egypt. Egyptian officials repeatedly deny any involvement in Regeni’s death.
The suspects are all members of the National Security Agency and include a general, two colonels and a major, the source said. They are being investigated for allegedly kidnapping Regeni. No-one has yet been named in connection with the killing itself.
Under Italian law, official investigation does not imply guilt and does not automatically lead to trial.
Regeni disappeared on January 25, 2016 – the fifth anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.
Intelligence and security sources told Reuters in 2016 police arrested Regeni outside a Cairo metro station and took him to a compound run by Homeland Security.
Italian and Egyptian investigators have worked together to solve the crime and held regular meetings in Rome and Cairo to pool information.
Judicial sources in Rome told Reuters Italy was frustrated by the slow pace of developments in Egypt and decided to press ahead with its own line of enquiry to move matters forward.
Egypt’s state information service said Italy sought Egypt’s approval for listing “a number of Egyptian policemen” as suspects during a meeting of prosecutors from both countries last week.
It said one request was rejected because Egyptian law did not recognise the procedure for placing suspects under investigation before possible charges are laid.
It also cited a lack of solid evidence for the request, which was “merely based upon initial police inquiries”.
The judicial source in Rome said among those under investigation was a colonel who met Italian prosecutors during a visit to Cairo in February 2016. He assured them local security forces had nothing to do with the disappearance of Regeni, the same judicial sources said.
Regeni was researching Egypt’s independent unions for his doctoral thesis. Associates say he was also interested in alternatives to the long-standing domination of Egypt’s economy by the state and the military.
Both subjects are sensitive in Egypt. The military’s grip on the economy is a subject rarely talked about in a country ruled almost entirely by military men since the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952.