Trial resumes for Egyptian agents accused of torturing Cambridge student to death

28-year-old Cambridge PhD Student Guilio Regeni was found dead in Cairo

Four Egyptian intelligence officers are currently on trial in Rome for the murder of Cambridge PhD student Guilio Regeni, whose body was found with severe burns, slash wounds and and broken bones in February 2016. Euronews reports that the four suspects have been named by the Italian prosecution as General Tariq Sabir, Colonels Athar Kamel and Uhsam Helmi and Major Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif.

This follows a two-and-a-half year suspension in the proceedings following an argument by the defence that the trial was void as the defendants were seemingly unaware they had been charged, the BBC reports.

This concern was dismissed in 2023 after an appeal by the prosecutors, who discouraged the lack of progress due to the Egyptian government’s lack of cooperation.

However, defence lawyers claimed once again in February that the trial should be annulled because of a lack of confirmation of whether the accused were still alive or indeed had been identified correctly.

An apparent case of mistaken identity, Regeni is believed to have been tortured to death by the four individuals currently being tried in absentia who mistook him for a foreign intelligence officer.

According to the Mirror, The Rome court heard last week that Regeni suffered severe burns and was beaten with sticks before his death following the PhD student’s last sighting at a friend’s flat in Cairo on 25th January 2016, with his body being found in a highway between the Egyptian capital and Alexandria on 3rd February.

Regeni was a PhD student at Girton College before his death in 2016 (Image Credit: Robbie Lit)

Regeni’s post-mortem found signs consistent with extreme torture all over the student’s body, revealing that almost all of the Italian’s wounds were inflicted in Egypt, the Mirror reports.

Alongside shattered legs, arms and shoulder blades, Regeni was found with cuts, bruises and over two dozen fractured bones, including seven broken ribs, all of his fingers and toes.

There were also stab wounds and burn marks across his body, including on the soles of his feet, seemingly created by a razor blade and cigarette burns.

A prominent burn mark between his shoulder blades appears to have been created by the perpetrators branding the Cambridge student on his back.

Alongside external marks of torture, the post-mortem also revealed that Regeni’s ultimate cause of death was a broken cervical vertebra caused by a fatal strike to the neck.

Regeni’s death occurred whilst he was conducting research in Cairo for his PhD thesis on Egyptian trade unions. He was also reportedly interested in state and military dominance over the economy, which seemingly drew the attention of the country’s authorities.

In addition, the student had also anonymously published anti-government writings for il Manifesto, a left-wing Italian newspaper, according to the Mirror.

Prosecutors in the current court case believe that Egypt’s General Intelligence Officer Major Magdi Sharif ordered informants to follow Regeni, culminating with his arrest at a Cairo metro station.

Significantly, the Mirror has reported that the PhD student had been put under official surveillance, as confirmed by the Egyptian government in 2016.