Nine days in Cairo: torture and murder of Giulio Regeni

In Cairo, Giulio lost his life after being kidnapped and tortured. Two years later, a mystery still lingers around his death.
Giulio Regeni Documentary
Protesters carry signs with the words "Truth for Giulio"

What could possibly be the consequences of starting a research? What could happen if you were to collaborate with the wrong people? The docu-film 9 Days in Cairo – Torture and Murder of Giulio Regeni, released in 2017, highlights the tangled case of Giulio Regeni, that, due to its cruelty, raised the worldwide public opinion about the human rights’ situation in Egypt, under the current regime.

Who was Giulio?

Giulio was a 28-year-old cosmopolitan PhD student at Cambridge University. He was one of the many young people who decided to leave his own Country due to a thirst for knowledge and the chance of realizing his dreams. At the moment of his death, he was conducting an economic research in Cairo for his PhD. Curiously, this research partially concerned the conditions of Egyptian trade unions after the end of Mubarak’s regime.

In 2016, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution, during the curfew hours in Cairo, Giulio disappeared. Only 9 days later, on February 3, was his body, half-naked and with clear signs of torture, discovered in a ditch along the highway from Cairo to Alessandria, next to a venue of the National Security, the Egyptian intelligence. Though his mother’s eyes, only the tip of his nose was recognizable.

From disappearance to murder

From that day onwards, Giulio’s family and worldwide friends, as well as public opinion and human rights organizations, particularly Amnesty International, have been fighting to get the truth, under the slogan “Truth for Giulio Regeni”, organizing sit-ins and initiatives to draw attention to the murder, still without culprits, of a young and promising researcher.

Among the initiatives, the documentary 9 Days in Cairo – Torture and Murder of Giulio Regeni found room. Having arisen from the idea of two Italian journalists, Giulio Foschini and Carlo Bonini, with the collaboration of 42˚Parallelo, an Italian publishing company producing several web series, and Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, the documentary aims at putting the pieces of the investigation together and at highlighting some aspects that are still not clear about the murder of the Italian researcher.

Who could have wanted the death of a brilliant academic? Who and what could have possibly endangered Giulio? These are some of the questions the documentary tries to answer. The film goes about retracing the 9 days in Cairo from Giulio’s disappearance to his body’s recovery and underlining the potential implication of his research about Egyptian trade unions in the death; the potential Egyptian Intelligence’s involvement and, last but not least, the potential role played by Mohamed Abdallah, head of the street sellers’ trade union and police informant – this last having been supposed to assist Giulio in his research activities in the streets of Cairo.

Lighting Candles for Giulio Regeni

Protesters lighting Candles in Giulio’s memory and for truth and justice | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Through interviews, the documentary involves several characters who could be key to the investigation’s steps, but also characters who were close to the victim. The feature also displays images of Cairo that introduce the audience in an overcrowded and chaotic environment where, amongst millions of people, it might be easy to get rid of a person, leaving no trace.

Giulio’s parents, Paola and Claudio, decided to participate in this project, lending their voices to reconstruct their son’s last days. From his kidnapping, they have never stopped looking for justice. In their eyes it is possible to feel the pain of a mother and a father whose son was taken from prematurely and unfairly, but also the strength of those who chose not to give up in front of grotesque attempts to cover up an inconvenient truth.

In addition, the interviews of the then Italian Ambassador in Cairo, Maurizio Massari, the Italian Police and the Italian coroner, who performed the autopsy on the body of Giulio, have been included. These people have been the first ones to manage the investigation and the relationships with the Egyptian authorities, which is why their words still prove to be fundamental to working through unanswered questions.

Formulating a track

The interviews of the parents and of the Italian authorities are alternated with the reconstruction of the interrogation reports of the above mentioned Mohamed Abdallah, filed at the Public Prosecutor of Cairo, and with the filming of Giulio himself, that Mohamed, perhaps at the request of the Egyptian National Security, shot secretly. In the film, the Italian PhD student explains the possibility of receiving a British financing of 10 thousand pounds for helping the union. Could this have been the reason Giulio lost his life?


Initiatives like this documentary are useful for not turning off the spotlight on cases such as the Regeni case. 9 Days in Cairo – Torture and Murder of Giulio Regeni is a documentary that spikes a feeling of anger for the broken dreams of a young man, for the lack of collaboration of the authorities and for the unprecedented and inhumane violence which no human being should ever be subjected to.A stronger and constant claim from the Italian and international authorities is still necessary, as it is unconceivable to remain silent in the presence of a body that suffered all kinds of tortures. Punishing those responsible for such violence is essential for restoring dignity to Giulio’s body, for satisfying the quest for justice of a family torn apart, and for keeping on the fight for all the people still subjected to tortures and enforced disappearances.

Films from the Bucket
Vanessa Manente

Vanessa studied International Relations at "La Sapienza" University in Rome, where she graduated with a final dissertation concerning the death penalty in the US. After her studies, she started working for the Embassies of Malta in Brussels and in Rome during the Maltese EU Presidency. Previously, she volunteered at a shelter for migrants in Italy; whilst, in Belgium, where she is currently working as a liaison officer, she volunteers within the events team of Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides free medical treatments to the victims of poverty and war, promoting a culture of peace.
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