Opinion

Killing Giulio Regeni — again

Italys far right appears to have found a new cause: the unsolved murder of Giulio Regeni.

The death of the young Italian researcher, who was killed under murky circumstances in Egypt in 2016, sparked a tense diplomatic standoff between Rome and Cairo.

It shocked a majority of Italians at the time. Across the country, local governments raised banners calling for “Verità per Giulio Regeni” (“truth for Giulio Regeni”). It remains a fevered topic of speculation and outrage for many.

But for Italys League party, the case has become a different kind of rallying cry. Across Italy, far-right mayors are now taking down the banners in a symbolic gesture calculated to confirm a nationalist worldview that distrusts outsiders.

In local elections in June, the historically leftist northern Italian city of Ferrara fell to the far right. As soon as the results were in, supporters of the newly elected mayor Alan Fabbri climbed the stairs of the municipal palace and covered the yellow banner about Regeni with the partys own flag.

That many local governments continue to display the banner is testament that for most Italians Regenis shocking story is not yet in the past.

Other cities have followed suit — even in Regenis hometown of Udine, northeast Italy, the regional president, Massimiliano Fedriga, also of a member of the League, decided to remove a banner that had hung there for years.

In a Facebook post explaining his decision, Fedriga claimed to want to “disconnect” Regeni and his death from the “political arena” and put an end to the controversies surrounding the case. It was a convoluted message no one quite understood. And predictably, the move had the opposite effect, sparking fierce political and public debate.

In Sassuolo, a town south of Modena, Mayor Gian Francesco Menani steered clear of politics, appealing instead to public decorum — the “dusty banner did not look good in the historical center,” he said — and to the passing of time. Regenis killing, in his view, had lost its “relevance.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. That many local governments continue to display the banner is testament that for most Italians Regenis shocking story is not yet in the past.

The late Giulio Regeni has become a target for the far-right Lega to shoot at | Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Its a story Italians have come to know by heart: A doctoral student at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., Regeni was in Cairo doing fieldwork for his research on Egypts independent unions of street vendors. He was abducted, tortured for days and eventually killed. When his disfigured body was found on the side of a road outside Cairo, his mother could only identify her son by the tip of his nose, she told reporters.

The investigation ran into roadblocks immediately. Egyptian officials initially claimed that Regeni had been hit by a car; then that he was the victim of a robbery gone awry; then that his death was linked to some lurid homosexual affair. They offered little to no help to Italian investigators.

Various leads pointed to the involvement of the state and some faction of Egypts intelligence apparatus. Regeni, it emerged, had been under police surveillance, and one of his contacts in the unions proudly confessed to having collaborated with the secret services. Italian officials are said to be looking into reports that an Egyptian intelligence official admitted he was among those who had kidnapped and beaten the Italian student.

The Egyptian government has continued to deny any responsibility. Just a few days ago, Mohamed Saafan, an influential Egyptian minister, claimed Regenis killing was just another “common crime”; a not-so-unusual occurrence in a large and violent city like Cairo. It was a homicide comparable to “those of Egyptians in Italy or of someone of any nationality in any country,” he said.

Initially, the Italian government fought back, and from May 2016 to September 2017, it recalled its ambassador to Egypt to protest Cairos lack of cooperation. But relations quickly normalized again. Egypt remains an important strategic and economic partner of Rome, and ENI – Italys main oil and gas company — is very active in the country, where it controls key gas fields.

The Italian publics reaction to the Regeni case has shifted too.

Regeni represents the antithesis of everything the new ultra-nationalist right stands for.

At first, there was a sense of apolitical national unity: He was an innocent university student, theRead More – Source