05/11/2016, 20.59
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For Catholic Church spokesman, the Regeni affair remains murky; Egypt under media and political attack

For Fr Rafic Greiche, the murder of the Italian researcher is an example of Egypt’s difficulty in media and international relations. Even the Regeni family’s Egyptian consultant who was recently arrested seems to come out of nowhere. Government hard-line seeks to boost the country's economy and development.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – The Regeni affair is "a clear example of the Egyptian government’s difficulty in handling media relations, explaining its own actions, and managing international relations,” Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told AsiaNews.

The abduction and murder of the young Italian researcher in January is still unresolved, shrouded in mystery. Egypt’s Interior Ministry has “not yet said what really happened,” the clergyman noted, probably because “it does not know itself. However, instead of mudding the waters, and fuelling speculation, it should have owned up to it.” This whole thing “appears very strange”.

Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old Italian Cambridge University researcher, had moved to Cairo to study Egypt’s labour movement in September 2015. He disappeared on 25 January, fifth anniversary of the Tahrir Square uprising. His body was found on 6 February on the side of a road just outside the Egyptian capital. It showed signs of particularly brutal torture, according to Italian investigators.

"As an Egyptian, I wonder, like many of my fellow citizens, why the story has taken such a high, especially political, profile,” Fr Greiche said. “Although we understand the suffering that the young man’s violent death has caused, it is hard to understand this. Similar episodes have occurred elsewhere in the world to Italian nationals.”

Speculation aside, “I would like to know why this attention on Regeni and not the others. I have no answer, but it seems strange. "

For the Egyptian priest, his country and government "are under attack" in the media, and perhaps "even Italy has not said the whole truth" about the young man. "There must be something,” he added, “but nobody is talking about it clearly, neither in Egypt nor in Italy."

Complicating the picture comes the arrest of an Egyptian consultant hired by the Regeni family, Ahmed Abdallah, president of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, on 25 April, for illegal demonstration.

"Nobody had heard about him or his organisation before,” the spokesman for the Egyptian Church said. “His arrest is unrelated to the Regeni case, but I cannot rule out links. What is certain is that he came out of nowhere. Even in this case, one can say that there are strange, unclear going-ons."

Things are complicated in Egypt. Human rights abuses and violations are taking place. The government and President al-Sisi have opted for a hard-line against protests, to prevent any return of Islamist extremism.

For two years, Egypt was in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood before they were driven from power by large-scale street protests. Now the country’s political leaders have decided to brook no dissent in order to rebuild its economic and social bases.

The Egyptian government and President al-Sisi "are promoting interesting projects in agriculture, infrastructure (Suez Canal expansion), and industry", something that should have been done “many years ago."

“The government wants to make up for the ground lost” under the Mubarak regime and during the Arab Spring, Fr Greiche said. However, it "has a serious problem with the media in presenting these projects, illustrating its economic policy and choices." Street protests for the islands ceded to the Saudis "are one example."

The latest issue is the arrest of a satirical group for a video they did on President Sisi and attacks against the media and the press.

"With respect to the detention of journalists, the police acted in accordance with the law,” Fr Greiche said. The journalists “did not show up in court, despite a summon to appear, choosing instead to take refuge in the headquarters of the Journalists Union."

Of course, Egypt today has "several problems", economic, social, and political. However, we must "help the tourists to return, buy Egyptian products, and then ask Europe for more help.”

“At the same time, the government needs to do a better job at presenting the decisions it takes, establish a better relationship with the people, and bring to a halt this stupid and mindless violence."

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