Regeni’s Issue: the Limits of Conflict between the Egyptian Sovereignty Organs

Regeni began dying soon after his arrival in Cairo in September 2015, where the Egyptian National Security Sector and the General Intelligence Service opened a confidential file on him, file no. 333//2915/01, with charges of espionage, conspiracy and membership in a terrorist internal network in Egypt, as well as planning to overthrow Al-Sisi. The supervisor of the file was General Salah Hegazy, the head of the National Security at the time. Regeni was believed to be a spy for both Italy and Great Britain – his relationships with workers and trade unions would aim to encourage strikes and conflicts, in order to damage Egypt’s economy.

During a period of 3 months, Regeni was an easy prey for the state’s sovereign devices (the General Intelligence Service, the Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance Department). These devices are in a permanent conflict, in search for a leading position in the hierarchy of ranks and in a bid to get closer to the regime.

The story begins with Regeni’s detention on the evening of January 25, 2016, at the outlet of Mohamed Naguib Metro Station. Then, he was exposed to torture by the military intelligence. Finally, his corps was violated and thrown semi-nude on the side of the Cairo-Alexandria desert road. Next to Regeni’s body, there was something that has not been mentioned up to now, namely, a cover for military use (a military blanket). This evidence was deliberately left by one of the Egyptian bodies, which decided to “take revenge” in referring to those accountable for the murder crime.

To compile the new image, the newspaper “La Repubblica” returned to Egypt and obtained new evidence from intelligence and investigative sources, as it received a document in Arabic on April 25, 2016, which was sent to the Italian Embassy in Berne, Switzerland, and then to Rome Prosecution in the recent weeks. This document, provided by an anonymous person was the second of its kind (the first one was sent to La Repubblica) which provided information on Regeni’s issue that was received from Egyptian key institutions representing the executive authority in Egypt; a voice from the inside that came to break the suspicious silence on the part of the Egyptian regime. It was a narration without mentioning names, but the narrative was rich in details on which the prosecutors relied in their investigations.

According to the narrative of La Repubblica, there are three thematic strands which are:

1- A photo that was taken to Regeni during the general assembly of the trade unions on December 11, 2015, AD.

2- A visit by the National Security officer in the same month, in December, to Regeni’s apartment in Dokki area.

3- A phone call from the same officer received by Regeni’s apartment co-fellow a few days after his arrest.

The report continues to review the details (It is now in the possession of Rome Prosecution), saying that almost at the end of November 2015, a National Security officer (a brigadier general), who was responsible for conducting the investigations with Regeni, provided new information to Major General Salah Hegazi, the head of the National Security Sector, that Jiulio Regeni is in contact with a young Egyptian called Walid, who belongs to the “Socialist Revolutionaries”. The reason for the heightened interest of the intelligence is that Walid was not an ordinary person. In fact, he was a relative of Gen. Salah al-Hegazi.

On December 19, 2015, Gen. Salah Hegazi was fired from the post of head of the National Security Sector, and Major General Mohammed Shaarawy replaced him. This happened for two reasons: First, due to Hegazi’s failure in the management of Regeni’s file; and second, due to withdrawing Regeni’s file from the National Security officer, who discovered the existence of a connection between Regeni and the Egyptian young man, Walid, who is a relative of Major General Salah Hegazi.

The National Security officer had complained to Major General Abbas Kamel, one of the men of influence, Al-Sisi’s right strong arm, and the head of Al-Sisi’s office. Kamel then withdrew Regeni’s issue from the National Security and transferred it to the military intelligence, under the command of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Farah Al-Shahat. Regeni’s file carried a new number: M.1 / 25,2009/ under the supervision of a new investigator, namely, Officer Galal al-Dabbagh, known as “the butcher”. Al-Dabbagh was described in the report as irascible, arrogant, witty in the application of all that is new in the field of torture, and a monster in the form of a man.

The butcher began to work on Regeni, who was unaware that he had been under surveillance. In the meantime, the conflict flared between the National Security and the Military Intelligence over the young researcher as if he were a kind of booty. Interior Minister Magdi Abdel Ghaffar also joined the frantic struggle by sending a message to Al-Sisi (the report included the content of the message) complaining of the illegal transfer of Regeni’s issue, and the humiliation suffered by the National Security as a result of this behavior, as well as the National Security’s effort and success in uncovering the Italian young man and the conspiratorial network associated with him, demanding the return of the issue again to the national security.

We know that Jiulio was killed during the 48 hours before finding his body, as he appeared on February 3. But the question here is: Why did they leave the body to be found?

The report offers a logical answer to this question: At the dawn of February 3, 2016, the Military Intelligence handed over the body of Regeni to the National Security and ordered them to bury the body quickly together with his personal belongings in the area of October 6, an area usually used by the Egyptian police to conceal the persons who are detained illegally and anonymous persons. However, the commands were not carried out exactly as the Military Intelligence wanted.

On that morning, at dawn, the National Security official in the area of October 6 called Major General Shaarawy and told him what happened and the orders he received. Maj. Gen. Shaarawy (the head of the National Security Sector) objected to this and ordered his officer to get rid of the body quickly and leave it in the open, on the desert road near the building, where the corpse of Regeni was delivered to the National Security by the Military Intelligence. Shaarawi also ordered the National Security officer to keep Regeni’s personal belongings and go to his (Shaarawy’s) office after that to deliver them to him. Shaarawi told the officer that he (himself) will then notify the Minister of Interior Abdel Ghaffar that he is keeping Regeni’s personal belongings in the closet of the National Security Sector.

What suggests that the narrative of the anonymous report is congruent with what “La Repubblica” inspected on the ground is that the distance between the security center (October 6 National Security headquarters) and the point where the body of Regeni was found does not exceed two kilometers. Also, there is another piece of information that gives a kind of rigidity to the narrative, i.e. that on the morning of February 3, it was stated in the Egyptian police previewing minutes that a “cover normally used by the military” was found next to the corpse (army blanket), which suggests that the quarter which got rid of the body of Regeni had the intention to leave traces leading to access to Regeni’s killers.

The story of Jiulio Regeni did not end with his death, but it has really begun. La Repubblica’s chief editor and deputy chief editor made an interview with Al-Sisi on March 14, 2016, where Al-Sisi committed himself and his country to searching for the truth in Regeni’s issue. Then, less than five days later, on March 19, the head of al-Sisi Office Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel informed Interior Minister Magdi Abdel Ghafar of the decision of his dismissal from his post as well as Major General Mohammed Shaarawy, the head of the National Security Sector. Also, Kamel told Abdel Ghaffar that they (he and Shaarawy) must pay the price for not obeying the orders to bury the corpse and that they will be introduced as a political scapegoat to calm the public opinion in Italy and Europe.

On this day, not by coincidence, all Western news agencies announced that a cabinet reshuffle was imminent. But in Cairo, the Interior Minister announced his defiance of the resolution and of Abbas Kamel, and said to him, “If you are really men, do it; Dismiss me if you can. I will go immediately to my office and I will wait for officially notifying me.” The next day, March 20, 2016, Abbas Kamel went quickly to the Minister of the Interior’s office and apologized for what happened the night before, and told him that he is remaining in office together with Major General Shaarawy. Four days later, on March 24, five innocent Egyptians were liquidated, and it was announced that they were involved in killing Regeni.

  • The Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”, the issue of June 9, 2016.
  • The Egyptian Institute for Political and Strategic Studies, the issue of June 10, 2016