Egypt is considering means of retaliating against a recent decision by Italy to stop providing it with military spare parts in response to the unsolved murder earlier this year of an Italian postgraduate student in Cairo.
The decision — approved by Italy’s parliament late last month — “calls for corresponding action [by Egypt] in regards to cooperation with Italy, especially in terms of the situation in Libya and the issue of illegal immigration,” Egypt’s Foreign Ministry declared Wednesday evening.
Late last month, Italy’s parliament approved proposals to stop supplying Egypt with spare parts for F-16 fighter jets.
The move was intended to signal Rome’s displeasure with the slow pace of investigations into the torture and death earlier this year of Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old Italian graduate student.
Regeni, while visiting Cairo, vanished on Jan. 25 of this year — a date that coincided with the fifth anniversary of a popular uprising that ended autocratic Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
At the time of Regeni’s disappearance, Egypt’s sprawling security apparatus had been on high alert to prevent the eruption of any demonstrations marking the uprising’s anniversary.
On Feb. 3, the student’s dead body — bearing signs of extreme abuse and torture — was found in a ditch on Cairo’s outskirts.
While the Egyptian authorities deny any involvement in Regeni’s death, informed observers say the signs of torture on the young man’s body were uncannily similar to those associated with Egyptian police torture.
In April, Rome recalled its ambassador to Egypt amid widespread media speculation in Italy that Egypt’s security agencies were involved in Regeni’s murder — accusations Egypt has strenuously denied.
According to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, the recent punitive move by Italy’s parliament “will negatively impact [Egyptian-Italian] cooperation and requires a response that could impact the current level of cooperation — both regional and international — between the two countries”.
This, the ministry added, “could include a review of existing cooperation in terms of the fight against illegal immigration in the Mediterranean region, in terms of the situation in Libya, and in other areas in which Italy enjoys Egypt’s support”.
The ministry went on to assert that recent months had seen stepped-up cooperation between Egyptian and Italian investigators “with hundreds of files on the ongoing [Regeni] investigation handed over to the Italians in full transparency”.