ROME (Reuters) - The head of Egypt’s independent union of street vendors reported Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni to police a few weeks before he disappeared and was murdered, an Egyptian prosecutor said in Rome.
The body of Regeni, 28, was found on the side of a roadway on the outskirts of Cairo on Feb. 3, more than a week after he vanished. The body showed signs of torture, including cigarette burns, cuts and contusions.
Government and security services deny ever taking Regeni into custody. But security and intelligence sources told Reuters in April he had been arrested by police outside a Cairo metro station on Jan. 25 and was taken to a Homeland Security compound.
Rome’s chief prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone and Egyptian general prosecutor Nabeel Sadek met for the third time this year on Thursday and Friday to exchange information collected during their respective investigations.
Sadek “said that he confirmed that Cairo police, on Jan. 7, 2016, received a report from the head of the independent union of street vendors on Giulio Regeni,” according to a joint statement by prosecutors released on Friday.
“Afterward the police carried out checks on (Regeni‘s) activity. After the checks, which lasted three days, no activity of interest to national security was discovered and, as a consequence, the checks were stopped,” the statement said.
Regeni had been researching independent labor unions in Egypt for his doctorate studies at Cambridge University, and had been in contact with the leaders of the street vendors’ union.
COMMITMENT TO “THE TRUTH”
In April, Italy recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultations in protest against Egypt’s failure to hand over evidence related to Regeni’s death after the first meeting between Rome and Cairo prosecutors.
On Friday, Sadek “illustrated and delivered an ample, complete and in-depth report on the cell phone traffic in the area where Giulio Regeni disappeared and where his body was found,” the statement said.
The cell phone traffic data had been sought by Rome investigators for months. But another piece of evidence requested by the Italians - CCTV footage from the metro station where Regeni was last seen - was still not provided.
The statement said there was a “common commitment” to overcome “technical obstacles” in recovering the video, without elaborating.
The two prosecutors also said they renewed their commitment to exchange information and find the truth about Regeni’s death. Sadek also said he was willing to meet Regeni’s parents to reassure them he was trying to get to the bottom of “such a serious crime”.
Italy has significant economic interests in Egypt, including the giant offshore Zohr gas field, which is being developed by Italy’s state energy producer Eni.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has also sought to be Egypt’s main political partner in Europe, offering to be “a bridge” to the region for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Reporting by Steve Scherer