Italy sends envoy back to Egypt ending 20-month standoff

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Italy will send a new ambassador to Egypt, 16 months after it withdrew its top diplomat to protest the brutal murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student and Cairo’s foot-dragging in the investigation.

Ambassador Giampaolo Cantini “will have the task of contributing, through contacts with Egyptian authorities, to the strengthening of judicial cooperation and, as a result, to the search for the truth,” Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said in a statement on Monday.

Regeni was a 28-year-old doctoral student in January 2016 when he vanished from the streets of the Egyptian capital.

His body was discovered in early February in a ditch on the outskirts of Cairo. He appeared to have been brutally beaten and suspicion fell on the regime of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The government denied allegations of involvement..

Regeni was in Cairo researching the sensitive issue of Egyptian street vendor trade unions and had written articles critical of the government under a pen name.

Italy recalled its ambassador in April 2016 citing a lack of cooperation from Egyptian authorities in trying to solve Regeni’s murder. The Italian government said magistrates have met half a dozen times over the past year in both Rome and Cairo as they try to resolve the case.

“The Italian government’s commitment remains to clarify the tragic disappearance of Giulio,” Alfano said in a statement.

The investigation continues

To date no one has been charged with Regeni’s murder but Italian officials justified the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, citing a “step forward” in the investigation after Egyptian officials passed along key documents to their Italian counterparts.

“Sending an authoritative liaison (ambassador) will help, through contacts with the Egyptian authorities, to reinforce judicial cooperation and as a consequence the search for the truth,” Alfano said.

But the decision to reestablish ties infuriated Regeni’s family. His parents condemned Rome’s decision to normalize relations with Cairo, saying the move would free Egypt of any pressure to hold someone accountable for their son’s murder. His mother has said her son’s face was so badly pummeled the only facial feature she could recognize was the tip of his nose.

The family issued a statement through the Italian news agency, Ansa, saying “It’s only when we know the truth about who killed Giulio and why, when his torturers and all their accomplices are handed over to us, alive, that the ambassador can return to Cairo without trampling on our dignity,” they said.

Italian state TV said Monday night the family was indignant that the ambassador was allowed to go to Cairo.

Source: Reuters, AP, AFP & dpa