Italian writer pays honor to France in protest

ROME

The Italian journalist and writer Corrado Augias personally presented his Legion of Honor to the French Embassy in Italy on Monday, in protest against the decoration of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with the same award.

Augias, 85, refused to “share this honor” with al-Sisi, who was decorated with the Grand Cross during his state visit to France last week.

“In my opinion, President (Emmanuel) Macron should not have awarded the Legion of Honor to a head of state who has objectively been an accomplice to atrocious criminals”, wrote Augias in a letter published by the Italian daily La Repubblica.

This gesture reflects the outrage of the Italian public as the Egyptian secret service is suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni.

Regeni, a 28-year-old doctoral student studying in Egypt, disappeared on January 25, 2016, on the fifth anniversary of a popular uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down after 30 years in power. Nine days later, his body was found on a highway.

While Egyptian authorities deny any involvement in the student’s death, observers say signs of torture on Regeni’s body were similar to those caused by Egyptian police torture.

His mother, who has since fought to uncover the truth about her son’s death, said she only recognized the body through the tip of her nose.

After years of investigations by Italian prosecutors, despite a lack of cooperation from Cairo, the Rome public prosecutor’s office called on December 10 for the trial of four Egyptian officers, including a general.

“The fairness measure has been exceeded or even exaggerated,” Augias wrote. “The assassination of Giulio Regeni represents for us Italians a bloody wound, an affront, and I would have expected from President Macron a gesture of understanding if not of fraternity, in the name of the Europe that we are trying together, so difficult to build. “

After the discovery of Regeni’s body, Italy temporarily recalled its ambassador to Egypt. But since then Rome has gradually reestablished its relations with Cairo despite protests from the student’s family.

Roberto Fico, the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, declared after Augias’ gesture: “Europe must be united… especially when fundamental rights are at stake.

Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International in Italy, said he hoped that other Italian personalities decorated with the Legion of Honor would “form a long line” outside the French embassy to imitate the protest of Augias.

The UK-based human rights watchdog has been actively demanding the truth for Regeni and the release of Patrick Zaky, an Egyptian student at the University of Bologna who has also been jailed in Cairo since last February.

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