In the absence of lawyers and journalists, very little is known about their treatment or the course of the investigation.
On March 24, Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced that police forces in New Cairo had captured and killed five members of a criminal gang “specializing in the theft of foreigners,” which the ministry claimed was responsible for the torture and murder of the Italian PhD student, who went missing on the fifth anniversary of the revolution. The ministry then issued a detailed statement linking these five men to Regeni’s murder and posted a photo of items in their possession, said to belong to Regeni.
This account by Egyptian authorities has been largely dismissed by Regeni’s family, Italian investigators, and even by Egyptian prosecutors, who denied that there was a link between the gang and Regeni’s death.
In response to the Interior Ministry’s claims that it had largely succeeded in solving the case of Regeni’s murder, Italian investigators informed Egyptian authorities that the case was far from closed. Enrico Letta, Italy’s former Prime Minister, dismissed the story completely, writing on his Twitter account, “I’m sorry, I don’t believe it. Don’t stopping asking for the truth for Giulio Regeni.”
Italian investigators highlighted a number of inconsistencies in Egypt’s explanation of what happened to Regeni, querying how likely it is that kidnappers would torture a victim and then hold onto his ID documents for months after his death. They also lamented the deaths of the suspects, who were shot dead by police forces, and cannot be questioned in relation to Regeni’s murder.
Relatives of these suspects were questioned a week ago and openly denied these police allegations in their testimonies, which were recorded in an investigative video posted on the privately owned DotMsr news portal on April 6.
Halem Henish, a human rights activist and lawyer, told Mada Masr on Tuesday, “The prosecution is trying to get these individuals to confess that their family members were indeed involved in Regeni’s murder.”
He added that some of these individuals may still be held in detention at the office of the Nations Security prosecutors, while others may have been released following their interrogations. “As of the moment, we have no further details regarding these five individuals or their interrogation,” he stated.
Henish was made aware of the presence of these family members on Monday night as he was visiting the National Security Prosecution in regards to a separate case. He told Mada Masr that he was given a list of names of these relatives, and posted a message on his Facebook page in which he identified them as Rasha Abdel Fattah, Mabrouka Afifi, Mohamed Saad and Gamal Abdel Meguid. The name of the fifth family member being interrogated is not known.
Abdel Fattah, one of the relatives being questioned, told Dot Masr that the belongings claimed to be Regeni’s were actually those of her family members. She stated the leather-bound book (found among the possessions) “was my mother’s, which they retrieved from [the] Sharqiya [governorate].”
Abdel Fattah added that both the sunglasses and headphones found among the possessions belonged to her deceased brother Saad.
Regeni’s parents made similar comments following the Interior Ministry statement, in which they reported that several of the items photographed did not belong to their son.
“They killed my brother, husband, and father,” Abdel Fattah stated during the interview. “Would it be difficult for them to then collect their personal belongings and do their bidding with them?”
“I want to speak with Prosecutor General so that he hears my testimony, not the claims of others that they want to hear,” she went on to say.
The family members of the deceased men openly admitted that the men had been previously sentenced for various crimes, including drug use, but added that they had not been convicted for any theft-related offenses and were not in possession of firearms.