Egyptian state TV airs video of murdered Italian student Regeni

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian state television has aired footage of Italian student Giulio Regeni, who was found murdered in Cairo almost a year ago, speaking to the head of a Cairo street vendors’ union who reported him to police a few weeks before his death.

An Egyptian activist holds a poster calling for justice to be done in the case of the recently murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni during a demonstration protesting the government's decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, April 15, 2016. REUTERS/Staff/File Photo TEMPLATE OUT

The 28-year-old, who was conducting postgraduate research into Egyptian trade unions, was last seen by friends on Jan. 25, 2016. His body, showing signs of extensive torture, was found in a roadside ditch outside Cairo on Feb. 3.

Egyptian officials have denied any involvement in Regeni’s death. Security and intelligence sources told Reuters in April that he had been arrested in Cairo on Jan. 25, and taken into custody.

In the video, the union head, Mohamed Abdallah, is heard repeatedly asking Regeni for money, without success. “My wife has a cancer operation, I will do anything as long as there is money in it,” he says.

Regeni says, in Arabic: “Mohamed, I cannot use the money because it is not my money. I cannot use it like that because I am an academic. I cannot tell the institution in Britain in the application that I want to use the money for personal reasons.”

Regeni explains that he would help Abdallah to apply for a grant or workshop worth “10,000 pounds” for union activities but not for personal use.

Abdallah says: “Is there no other way? A way with personal use?”

On Monday, Abdallah confirmed to Reuters that he had recorded the video on his mobile phone and that his voice was heard on it. He said the discussion had probably taken place on Jan. 6 or 7.

He also confirmed his earlier statement that he had reported Regeni to the police in early January 2016, and denied that he had acted out of frustration with Regeni’s refusal to give him money. He told Reuters that it had been his “national duty” to pass on to police his suspicions that Regeni was a spy.

Foreign funding of civil society groups such as labor unions is frowned upon by the government, which suspects that overseas NGOs helped to destabilize Egypt before an uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

“Any good citizen would have done what I did,” Abdallah said. “What he was talking about (offering to help secure funding for the union) gave me a feeling that it was related to spying, and so I told the authorities. What’s wrong with that? I should be applauded.”

He said the sum discussed in the video was 10,000 pounds sterling ($12,500), not 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($530).

Egyptian and Italian prosecutors said in December that Abdallah had raised concerns with police that Regeni was harming national interests, and that police had carried out checks but found nothing of interest and stopped watching the Italian.

Khaled Mhani, director of news at state television, said the video had been provided by the public prosecutor’s office and broadcast at the prosecutor’s request. The prosecutor’s office could not be reached for comment.

On Sunday, the prosecutor gave the green light to experts from Italy and a German company that specializes in salvaging closed-circuit TV footage to examine cameras in Cairo as part of the investigation into Regeni’s death.

Italy has complained that the investigation is taking too long, and withdrawn its ambassador to Cairo.

Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy; Editing by Lin Noueihed and Kevin Liffey