Cairo // Egypt has rejected an Italian request to hand over thousands of phone records to help investigate the murder of student Giulio Regeni in Cairo.
Mostafa Suleiman, Egypt’s assistant state prosecutor, said the demand made during a meeting in Rome last week was unconstitutional.
Egypt’s refusal to supply the phone records of mobile subscribers in Cairo prompted Italy on Friday to recall its ambassador, Mr Suleiman said on Saturday.
Regeni, a 28-year-old Cambridge University PhD student, was in Egypt researching labour unions when he disappeared on January 25.
His badly mutilated body was found more than a week later on the side of a road.
Mr Suleiman said Italian investigators asked for records of “all subscribers in areas in where [Regeni] lived, where he disappeared and where his body was found”, Mr Suleiman said, adding the number could even reach a million.
“This demand conflicts with and violates the Egyptian constitution, and would constitute a crime,” he said.
Mr Suleiman added that the Italian investigators “conditioned further judicial cooperation on this demand” but the Egyptian delegation in Rome flatly refused.
Rome announced it was recalling its ambassador over lack of progress in the probe into Regeni’s brutal murder.
Mr Suleiman said that the Italian investigators also demanded CCTV footage that had been automatically deleted by then, but Egypt made inquiries and found that a programme could be purchased that might have retrieved it.
He said they asked Italy for help but the matter was “still under study”.
Italian officials suspect the student was killed by elements in the Egyptian security services. Their Egyptian counterparts have maintained that there is no basis for such claims.
Egypt’s presentation of a theory that a criminal gang carried out the murder was greeted with outraged scepticism in Italy and has helped fuel public anger over the case, putting intense pressure on Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to be seen to be getting tough with Cairo.
“Italy has undertaken a commitment with the Regeni family ... that we would stop only once we get the truth,” Mr Renzi said.
Mr Renzi has a close relationship with Abdel Fattah El Sisi which has helped to generate hugely valuable business contracts for Italian companies, particularly in the energy sector.