President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi addressed the case of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, hinting at “beneficiaries who seek to impede relations”.
Al-Sisi’s interview focused mainly on the case of Regeni, 28, who was found dead in a ditch along the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road on 3 February, nine days after his disappearance.
In the interview, the president raised questions regarding the “intriguing” timing of the case, which coincided with the visit of Italy’s minister of economic development to Egypt and “when bilateral relations were gathering unprecedented momentum both politically and economically”.
The president addressed the family of the Italian PhD candidate “as a father before a president” who will “spare no effort” to find the perpetrators.
The interview, published on Wednesday, is the first time Al-Sisi addressed the case since he consoled Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi on 4 February.
“I want to speak to the Regeni family not as a president but as a father to stress that I fully understand the pain, bitterness and shock they are feeling from losing their son,” Al-Sisi said.
“This terrifying and unacceptable incident is an individual act which no other Italian has ever faced; millions of Italians have been visiting Egypt for a long time and have enjoyed a safe, pleasant trip during which their well-being was guaranteed,” the president said.
Al-Sisi explained the Egyptian prosecution’s work on the case, saying that specialised groups have been formed by relevant security authorities to uncover the motives behind the incident and unravel the circumstances surrounding it.
The president reiterated Egypt’s willingness to intensify cooperation with Italian authorities in order to resolve any ambiguity related to the case and bring their perpetrators to justice.
He also revealed that Egyptian investigators will head to Rome “in the upcoming days” to discuss ways to enhance mutual coordination in the investigations.
Al-Sisi called for patience on the investigations making an example of the case of the assassination of former prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat in which investigations took “almost 8 to 9 months to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice”.
He also illustrated another example regarding Egyptian citizen and Italian resident Adel Moad, who disappeared last October “without having unravelled the causes of his disappearance or who is behind it.”
“Such individual acts should not be exploited to undermine bilateral relations,” Al-Sisi added.
“There is a fundamental point to consider: Egypt’s stability is crucial, if it were to end, it would endanger the whole of the Mediterranean and Europe. There are 90 million people living in Egypt, a quarter of the population of the Middle East, and 60 million of them are under 40-years-old. Imagine if just one in a thousand of these young people became radicalised and were recruited by terrorists. The result would be a destructive force that would have a devastating impact, and not on this region alone,” he added.