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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Cambridge university defends tutor of Italian student murdered in Egypt

The academic supervisor of Giulio Regeni, who was found dead in Cairo in 2016, had been accused of not cooperating with Italian investigators

People attend a march in Rome in 2016 in memory of Giulio Regeni, who was tortured and killed in Cairo, while in Egypt as a research student. AP
People attend a march in Rome in 2016 in memory of Giulio Regeni, who was tortured and killed in Cairo, while in Egypt as a research student. AP

The vice-chancellor of Cambridge university has blasted a “campaign of denigration” aimed at the academic supervisor of an Italian student murdered in Egypt.

Cambridge PHD student Giulio Regini was killed whilst conducting academic research in Egypt on the country’s trade unions. The student’s body was found in Cairo on February 3, 2016. He had been tortured.

In a statement, Vice-Chancellor Stephen J. Toope, who took office in October, said “it is very disturbing, therefore, to find she [Dr Maha Abdelrahman] has been the victim of seemingly concerted efforts to implicate her directly in Giulio’s death.”

Mr Toope described Dr Abdelrahman, who was Mr Regini’s academic supervisor, as “an honourable and distinguished scholar”.

The comments came following reports in Italian media that Dr Abdelrahaman had refused to cooperate with investigators. The reports said that prosecutors had wanted to interview her, and fellow students of Mr Regini’s, about his research into Egypt’s street vendors’ trade union. Italian newspaper La Repubblica alleged that Dr Abdelrahman declined to hand over a phone and laptop to authorities for investigation.

However, Mr Toope said that since Mr Regini’s death, Dr Abdelrahman had been interviewed three times by Italian investigators in Cambridge, most recently last week and she had “voluntarily handed over material requested by them”.

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It added “in light of her willingness to assist, the public campaign of denigration, fanned by political expedience, is shameful”.

Criticism of Cambridge university was previously aired by former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who wrote on Facebook some two months ago “We really want the truth about Giulio Regeni . . . Is the team that supervised Giulio hiding something?”

Though Italian investigators have not suggested Dr Abdelrahman was directly involved in Mr Regini’s death, they are believed to be trying to determine how the student came to choose his research subject, and whether academic supervisors contributed to putting him in harm’s way.

“This brutal killing calls for justice. But justice will not be served by undermining the very thing that drove Giulio in his brief but inspiring academic career: the search for truth”, Mr Toope’s statement concluded.