Italian writer returns Legion of Honor award in protest after Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

The parents of an Italian researcher killed in Egypt thanked a journalist for returning his Legion of Honor award to France in protest after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received the same medal.

Paola and Claudio Regeni said they felt supported by the actions of Corrado Augias, a veteran writer for the Italian newspaper The Republic.

Their son, Giulio, went missing while working in Egypt in January 2016. He was found dead nine days later on the outskirts of Cairo. Italian prosecutors allege that he was tortured to death for several days by President Sisi’s security agents.

Giulio was found dead in a ditch, half naked, with broken bones, cuts, burns and bruises all over his body. The torture was so severe that his mother said she could only recognize him with “the tip of her nose.”

“Support for civil rights”

Corrado Augias declared: “The president [Emmanuel] Macron should not have awarded the Legion of Honor to a head of state who objectively became an accomplice to atrocious criminals “(Photo: Mauro Scrobogna / LaPresse / AP)

“Augias’ example is one of wonderful consistency and support for the cause of civil rights,” said Mr. and Mrs. Regeni.

After the presentation of his prize, the highest distinction in France, M. Augias, 85, wrote in his diary: “In my opinion, the 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.

Giovanna Melandri, former Italian Minister of Culture and president of the Maxxi Contemporary Art Museum in Rome, said she would also hand over her award.

Rome prosecutors said last week that following a four-year investigation, they plan to indict four Egyptian security officers for their alleged role in the death of Mr Regeni, a 28-year-old researcher and postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge.

“Shocking truth”

Speaking to an Italian newspaper La Stampa, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared: “This trial is the instrument to reach the truth, which unfortunately should be shocking. But he did not pledge to withdraw the Italian ambassador from Cairo, as Mr. Regeni’s parents had requested.

Mr. Regeni had researched union activities among Egyptian street vendors for his doctoral thesis at the time of his disappearance.

Italian prosecutors believe Mr. Regeni’s activities have caught the attention of the Egyptian National Security Service, as it was believed he was trying to fuel social unrest.

Mr Macron presented President Sisi with the Legion of Honor last week during the Egyptian leader’s state visit to Paris.

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