“Egypt is in a difficult state right now,” he wrote before leaving for Cairo, in messages shared with the Guardian by his friend. “The dictatorship is back and until recently it wasn’t clear how brutal it was going to become. It seems that it’s ‘stabilising’ now … this state of affairs is very precarious.”
Regeni is unusual because he was a foreigner, an Italian PhD student at Girton College who moved to Cairo in September 2015 to work on a development studies thesis about independent trade unions.
It was a touchy subject in a country that had seen a huge rise in worker representation during the Arab spring, which swept Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, to power in 2012.
Twelve months later, Morsi was toppled in a coup that eventually installed the former general, Sisi, as the country’s leader, in a return to military rule.
Regeni, who had previously studied Arabic and politics at Leeds University, decided to research his thesis in Cairo from September 2015 to March 2016, with a two-week break at home with his family for Christmas in Fiumicello, north-east Italy.
In October, a month after his arrival, he described trade unions as “the only remaining force in civil society”.
He concentrated on the street vendors, of whom there were about 6 million, who had set up a union to combat government crackdowns. Regeni said the situation in Cairo was “depressing, but not manic like 2013”.
“This doesn’t feel like it’s going to be another 30 years,” he added, in reference to the length of rule of the previous army leader, Hosni Mubarak.
But things took a worrying turn when, at a meeting of union activists, Regeni spotted a veiled young woman taking his picture on her phone, which made him fear he was under surveillance.
He was also getting irritated by vendors hassling him for mobile phones and the head of their union asking for money for family medical bills. When the student said he could not help, Mohamed Abdallah reported him to police, later claiming he thought he was a spy.
In one of his last Facebook messages, Regeni asked for help with his English in a paper he had written.
Five days later he was snatched off the street on his way to an evening out.
Nine days after that his body was found, dumped on the side of the Cairo-Alexandria highway. He had been tortured; beaten, burned and stabbed before his neck was broken after he was struck from behind with a heavy, blunt object.
His injuries were so severe that when his mother, Paola, saw his body she could only recognise him from the “tip of his nose”.
What followed was an apparent cover-up by the authorities. President Sisi, in an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, vowed to track down the culprits. Instead it was then claimed there had been a robbery by a gang, all now dead.
In large part due to eyewitnesses coming forward to say they saw Regeni being interrogated at the National Security Agency headquarters, an Italian judge last month said the four senior Egyptian security officials should stand trial. Gen Tariq Sabir, Col Usham Helmi, Col Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim and Maj Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif face charges of aggravated kidnapping. Sharif is also being accused of conspiracy to commit murder.
Egypt has closed the case and refuses to extradite the suspects to Italy, so the trial will go ahead without them.
Johannes Svensson shared a flat in Cairo with Regeni while he was working for a UN agency in 2013, at the time Morsi was overthrown.
“He was interested in how this group of street vendors, who you might suspect are quite weak, organises itself in an efficient way and manages to have some political leverage.”
Regeni was an academic, not a political agitator, says Svensson.
In fact, he described Regeni as the “cautious” one when they were together on the streets in July 2013 to witness the celebrations after Morsi’s overthrow.
Since his death, Regeni has become a martyr – or shahid – for the disappeared in Sisi’s Egypt.
“That’s why there’s graffiti of him in Cairo,” says Regeni’s anonymous Facebook friend. “He is a representative figure of that.”
A branch of Canada’s federal police force says it has spent the last decade conducting a “large-scale investigation” into allegations of sexual abuse at a former residential school.
On Tuesday, the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it launched a criminal investigation in 2011, investigating claims that students were assaulted during their time at the Fort Alexander residential school.
The rare disclosure of an ongoing investigation was prompted by questions from the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper.
“Due to the many people affected by this investigation as well as the larger social implications, it was determined to be in the public interest to provide as much information on the ongoing investigation as we can,” the RCMP said in its news release.
At least 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools across the country, which were funded by the federal government and run by churches as part of the campaign to strip the youth of their cultural identity.
The Fort Alexander residential school, 125km (78 miles) north-east of Winnipeg, opened in 1905. Children often tried to run away from the institution, according to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. In 1928, two boys drowned while trying to escape by boat.
It was closed by the federal government in 1970. Elders have long spoken about abuse within the institution, including testifying at the country’s truth and reconciliation commission.
More than 80 RCMP officers have been involved in the investigation so far, which has involved speaking to more than 700 people across North America.
Investigators travelled to Ottawa to scour archival records from the school, as well as the province of Manitoba’s records. They also canvassed residents in the area where the school was located, on the grounds of the Sagkeeng First Nation.
Police obtained 75 witness and victim statements.
Grand chiefs of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization have worked closely with police on the investigation, as have the chief and council of the Sagkeeng First Nation.
In addition to testimony of abuse, survivors have long said children went missing or died while attending the school.
Last week, teams searched the grounds of Sagkeeng First Nation using a drone and ground-penetrating radar technology to look for human remains.
The EU called on Tuesday on Lebanon political leaders to form a government without delay, following the nomination of businessman Najib Mikati as prime minister. “It is now of crucial importance that a credible and accountable government is formed in Lebanon without delay, one that is able to address the severe economic and social crises the country is facing,” the EU said in a statement.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – A Boeing aircraft with 165 people on board is preparing for an emergency landing at Simferopol airport due to technical problems with its engine, an emergency services spokesperson said.
“A Boeing is preparing for an emergency landing in Simferopol, on board of which, according to preliminary information, there are 165 passengers,” the spokesperson said.
The aircraft, which performs a flight from Yakutia to Crimea, had vibration in one of the engines, he added.