Italy pressed on arms sale to Egypt amid torture-murder case - InfoNews

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Italy pressed on arms sale to Egypt amid torture-murder case

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte attends an hearing of a Parliamentary investigative commission, at the Senate in Rome, Thursday, June 18, 2020. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte was heard by a Parliamentary investigative commission on the slain of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni who was murdered in Cairo in 2016. Giulio Regeni, 28, an Italian doctoral student disappeared in Cairo on Jan. 25, the anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising, a day when security forces were on high alert and on the streets in force to prevent any demonstrations or protests. His body, stabbed repeatedly and exhibiting cigarette burns and other signs of torture, was reported found on Feb. 3. (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP)
June 18, 2020 - 4:06 PM

ROME - Italian lawmakers pressed Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte late Thursday over the planned sale of two frigates to Egypt even though Cairo has refused to hand over suspects in the torture and killing of a graduate student or fully co-operate in the investigation.

A special parliamentary commission investigating the abduction, torture and slaying of Giulio Regeni, who disappeared in Cairo in 2016 while doing academic research, questioned Conte about the perceived lack of progress in the case during a two-hour hearing.

Conte sought to reassure lawmakers that he has repeatedly pressed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in phone calls and in personal meetings, urging that country's authorities to let the truth be determined about who killed Regeni.

Since late 2018, Italian prosecutors have called for Egypt to hand over five intelligence and police service officials or at least co-operate in their prosecution in Italy.

Parties in Conte's coalition government, including the populist 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democrats, are questioning the wisdom of going ahead with the sale to Egypt of the two warships, which were built in Italy and at first destined for the Italian navy.

During the panel's questioning, opposition lawmaker Andrea Orsini, from the centre-right Forza Italia party, urged Conte to consult with his own coalition about the sale. “You have a duty to do some reflection on this,” Orsini said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Debora Serracchiani insisted Conte reveal if he had pressed el-Sissi to at least supply information about the five kidnapping suspects that could help Italy prosecute them. “Maybe they are the ones who (also) tortured and killed Regeni,” she said.

The premier told the panel he would elaborate on how the Egyptian president has responded to his entreaties, but in a closed-door session that followed the open-door hearing.

“The question of the barbarous killing of Regeni has always been at the centre”of his government, Conte insisted.

Another Democratic Party lawmaker, Lia Quartapelle, noted that in the past few years, Egypt has been Italy's biggest purchaser of arms.

Conte described Egypt as a key ally in combating terrorism and illegal migration as well as an important geopolitical player in Libya, Italy's conflict-plagued, unstable neighbour across the Mediterranean.

Lawmakers on the parliamentary commission disputed the wisdom of that strategy.

“We can't call Egypt an ally any more until this (Regeni) matter is cleared up,'' said Quartapelle. ”We can't trust Egypt."

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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