MILAN (AP) — Italy raised the pressure Thursday on Egypt for concrete answers to the brutal torture and murder of an Italian researcher nearly two years ago. Prosecutors indicated plans to investigate Egyptian secret service members and the speaker of Italy's lower house broke parliamentary ties with Egypt.
Prosecutors are set to open an investigation against seven Egyptian secret service members related to the murder in January 2016 of Giulio Regeni, who was abducted and tortured for several days before his body was left on a desert highway north of Cairo, the news agency ANSA reported, without citing sources.
The launch of a formal investigation, which is likely to raise tensions with Egypt, could come as soon as next week.
While Egypt is unlikely to surrender any suspects, Italy could try any defendants in absentia.
Also Thursday, Italy's lower house speaker Roberto Fico announced the suspension of relations with the Egyptian parliament "until there is a true investigation and a trial that brings resolution."
Italy has been pressing Cairo for years to identify and prosecute those responsible for torturing and killing Regeni, who had come to the attention of Egyptian officials through his work researching labor unions.
Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, who visited Cairo in August to press the case, issued a statement Thursday saying that the "search for truth in the barbaric killing of Giulio Regeni remains a priority in the relations between Italy and Egypt."
He pledged that the foreign ministry would take "the necessary steps to press Egyptian authorities to renew with determination the commitment ... to reach a concrete resolution that allows justice to be fully served."
Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement by Italy's lower house to cut ties with their Egyptian counterparts, saying "Italian pressure is vital to ensure that the killers don't get away with their crime."
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, called the investigation into Regeni's death by Egyptian authorities "far from adequate."
“The Egyptian government should show it is serious about finding and punishing those responsible for Regeni’s torture and murder by fully cooperating” with Italian prosecutors, she said.