CAIRO (Reuters) - Dozens of people gathered at the Italian embassy in Cairo on Saturday to mourn the Italian student Giulio Regeni, whose body was found half naked at a roadside with what a senior Egyptian prosecutor has said were cigarette burns and other signs of torture.
Regeni, a Cambridge University doctoral student, went missing in Cairo on Jan. 25, the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. His body was found on Wednesday.
He had disappeared after leaving home in a smart district of Cairo to meet a friend, according to another friend.
His research had focused on trade unions in Egypt after the 2011 uprising and he had also written articles critical of the Egyptian government under a pseudonym, according to the Italian newspaper that published them.
A group of about 50 people including friends and Egyptian political activists gathered in front of the embassy on Saturday, laying flowers and lighting candles.
“Giulio was here fighting for the rights of Egyptian workers, and for the Egyptian revolution. The least we can do is stand here and say that we consider him to be one of us,” said activist Sally Toma. “Unfortunately he died the same way Egyptians die every day.”
Regeni’s body had been flown to Rome earlier on Saturday, Egyptian officials at Cairo airport told state news agency MENA.
Il Manifesto, a left-wing newspaper based in Rome, published Regeni’s final article on Friday, describing difficulties faced by independent unions in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Tensions had been high in Egypt in the run-up to the anniversary of the anti-Mubarak uprising, with police detaining activists and warning people not to demonstrate. No significant protests took place.
Rights groups say Egyptians are often detained by police on little evidence and beaten or coerced. Scores have disappeared since 2013. Egypt denies allegations of police brutality.
Last year, Islamic State militants kidnapped a Croatian man on the outskirts of Cairo and later beheaded him, but such incidents are rare and there was a heavy police presence in downtown Cairo when Regeni went missing.
On Thursday, the Italian Foreign Ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador to express concern about the student’s death, and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi telephoned Sisi, asking for a joint investigation and the swift return of his body to Italy.
Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Reuters TV and Mostafa Hashem; Editing by Andrew Bolton