January 10, 2018 / 9:14 PM / 3 months ago

Italian police take computer of Cambridge tutor in Egypt murder case

ROME, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Italian magistrates investigating the murder of a graduate student in Cairo two years ago have seized the computer and cell phone of his Cambridge University tutor, the prosecutors’ office in Rome said on Wednesday.

Giulio Regeni was tortured and killed while carrying out research in Egypt. Italian magistrates have worked with their Egyptian counterparts to try to solve the crime, but have often expressed frustration over the slow pace of the investigation.

While there is no suggestion that Regeni’s tutor, Maha Abdelrahman, was involved in his death, investigators have pushed for months to question her about why he had chosen his research subject and whether she had put him in harm’s way.

Abdelrahman finally agreed to talk to the Italian magistrates in Cambridge on Tuesday, prosecutors said. On Wednesday, the team from Rome, backed up by British authorities, visited her home and office, taking a computer, a hard disk, a USB key, a phone and some unspecified documents.

“(This) will be useful to bring definitive clarity, in an unequivocal and objective way, to the role of the tutor in consideration of the investigation,” the prosecutors said in a statement.

Cambridge university did not immediately respond to requests for a comment. Abdelrahman, who is Egyptian, has never spoken publicly about the death of her student and took a leave of absence in the wake of his killing.

Reuters could not immediately reach Abdelrahman.

A senior legal source in Rome said Abdelrahman had told magistrates that Regeni had picked his own research subject. He said she had shed no new light on the case and added that this was “disappointing”.

Regeni had been looking into Egypt’s independent unions for his thesis and attracted the suspicion of the Cairo government before his disappearance, sources told Reuters in 2016.

Security and intelligence sources told Reuters that Regeni had been arrested in Cairo on Jan. 25, 2016, and taken into custody. His disfigured body was found in a ditch more than a week later. Egyptian officials have denied any involvement in his killing.

The murder has strained ties between Italy and Egypt, traditional Mediterranean allies with strong economic ties. (Reporting by Crispian Balmer, Editing by William Maclean)

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