The murder of Giulio Regeni is a frightening example of the misrule practiced in Egypt but which might just as well have occurred in any other Arab country. Regeni was a 28-year-old Italian who was at Cambridge University engaged in writing a Ph D. Those who knew him speak well of his intelligence and language skills. His subject was popular opposition to the regime. Undoubtedly he was on the Left, probably some sort of Marxist. Under an alias, he wrote articles for an Italian Communist publication. His half-naked body was found on a street in Giza, a district of Cairo. He had been tortured so badly that his poor mother was to say that she recognized him only by the tip of his nose.
Khalid Shalaby, a ranking major general and official prosecutor in Giza, seems to have put out the story that Regeni had been kidnapped by a criminal gang. The police were supposed to have then shot the entire gang, which was why they could not be produced. It so happens that Shalaby has once before been convicted of torture.
In response to representations of the Italian government, a senior Egyptian flew to Rome where he upheld the story of a criminal gang. Monitored telephone records might provide leads, but apparently this was a detective procedure too complicated to be carried out. Angered, the Italian government has withdrawn the Italian ambassador to Cairo and threatens sanctions. It is safe to assert that Shalaby will not be brought to trial, and nobody will ever be able to discover why someone in authority decided that this harmless but perhaps inquisitive young Italian had to be tortured to death. Everybody, first and foremost the Italians, will be left to make of the mystery whatever they can. That’s how they do things in that part of the world.