The socialist and the capitalist win hands down: mainstream is sidelined in New Hampshire

epa05152109 US Senator and Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (L) and is wife Jane wave following his victory speech to supporters at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire, USA, 09 February 2016. Billionaire businessman Donald Trump was projected to win on 09 February's New Hampshire Republican primary, while Senator Bernie Sanders won the Democratic vote in the closely watched first US presidential primary election. Trump led with 34 percent of the vote with 12 percent of ballots counted, but all US television networks had declared him the winner, while Sanders took 57 percent of the vote to Hillary Rodham Clinton's 40 percent, with 15 percent of votes counted. EPA/CJ GUNTHER

Bernie Sanders won a commanding victory over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire (60% to Hillary’s 38%), and Donald Trump also scored a substantial win over Kasich (35% to 15%) in a triumph of two candidates who have seized on Americans’ anger at the Washington political establishment. With Jeb Bush coming fourth in the Republican stakes, the Bush dynasty is on the wane. Cruz who won the Republican vote in Iowa lagged in third place with 11%. Neither Sanders nor Trump had scored this big in Iowa (although they both came second).

The New Hampshire result is important in that it is the first proper ‘primary’. A caucus, on the other hand, which what we had in the agricultural state of Iowa, is a system of local gatherings where voters decide which candidate to support and select delegates for nominating conventions, and is an antiquated way of voting. Today, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa are the only states to use the caucus. A primary on the other hand is a proper state-wide secret ballot.

Now the attention turns to North Carolina, where Trump is already ahead. One poll puts Trump ahead by 30% to Cruz 20%, and another poll 38% to Cruz 16%: see!

Although Sanders isn’t well-known there (Clinton lead here seems to be 55-39), the New Hampshire primary win will now give him visibility.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention in the Syrian Arab Republic

In the Syrian Arab Republic, massive and systematised violence – including the killing of detainees in official and makeshift detention centres – has taken place out of sight, far from the battlefield. This paper examines the killing of detainees occurring between 10 March 2011 and 30 November 2015. Its findings are based on 621 interviews, as well as considerable documentary material.

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Letter from HRW to Sisi on Egyptian Justice Minister Zind’s Hate Speech

Letter to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi


The Arab Republic of Egypt

Your Excellency,

We write to bring your attention to extremely troubling remarks recently made by a minister in your government that appeared to advocate mass killings. We believe these remarks deserve your strong response.

On January 28, Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind participated in a live interview on the satellite channel Sada al-Balad, during which he and host Ahmed Moussa discussed the sacrifices made by the armed forces during their counterterrorism operations. During the discussion, Mr. al-Zind praised the soldiers who have been killed and stated:

These soldiers are protecting you, and you need to appreciate them. But I doubt that. He whose heart and sight are blinded shall know nothing until he dies. May God have mercy on our virtuous martyrs. If the armed forces took revenge in a swift response, killing or finishing off 40 wrongful terrorist extremists, the armed forces will do everything they can to take revenge – to quench our thirst for revenge. I believe that these virtuous martyrs – I swear that we will only be satisfied to have 400,000 for their sake … I swear by God almighty that, personally, the fire in my heart will not be extinguished unless for each one there’s at least 10,000.

Mr. Moussa responded that such a figure would mean “the entire Brotherhood,” to which Mr. al-Zind responded affirmatively:

I’m saying the Brotherhood and whoever aids them and whoever loves them and whoever pleases them and whoever takes bribes from them and whoever lives off their ill-gotten funds from Turkey and Qatar and Iran.

Such remarks appear to run counter to Egypt’s constitution, international law and your own stated position regarding the Muslim Brotherhood. They represent a dangerous threat to many thousands of peaceful Egyptian citizens, and you should condemn them.

We ask you to take three concrete steps to ensure the safety those who have been put at risk:

  • Publicly condemn Mr. al-Zind’s remarks and state that they do not represent the policy of your government.
  • Publicly pledge to ensure the prosecution of anyone who commits, orders or assists in murder or other crimes against Brotherhood members or relatives, or any other group because of their political or ideological affiliation.
  • Communicate directly to the justice and interior ministries that the government will punish violence outside the law against Brotherhood members or other political opponents, especially killings, torture and enforced disappearances.

As you know, Mr. al-Zind oversees Egypt’s judiciary and public prosecution in his role as justice minister, and his words carry special weight and authority, particularly when they concern the authorities’ use of force.

The fact that security forces have in the recent past carried out mass killings of Brotherhood supporters, and continue to act outside the law by committing torture and enforced disappearances, takes Mr. al-Zind’s remarks beyond hyperbole or heated rhetoric and renders them a real threat to anyone suspected of supporting the Brotherhood.

You have in the past stated your willingness to reconcile with the Brotherhood, and in November 2015, you told the BBC in an interview that the Brotherhood was part of Egypt.

“The problem doesn’t lie with the government and it doesn’t lie with me. It lies with public opinion, with Egyptians. Egyptians are peaceful people and they don’t like violence. They reacted against the Muslim Brotherhood and are wary of them,” you said. “This country is big enough to accommodate all of us. They are part of Egypt and so the Egyptian people must decide what role they can play.”

In addition to contradicting your own position, Mr. al-Zind’s remarks appear to violate the Egyptian constitution and international law.

Article 53 of the constitution states that “discrimination and incitement to hate are crimes punishable by law,” while the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights similarly states, in article 20, that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

We urge you to use your authority as president to counter these dangerous remarks by your minister and protect Egyptian citizens who have the right to live safely and peacefully in their own country.




Sarah Leah Whitson

Executive Director

Middle East and North Africa

Human Rights Watch

Erdoğan won’t meet Sisi even if he lifts the death sentence on Morsi


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he would not meet with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, even if the Egyptian regime abolished the death sentence on legitimate President Mohamed Morsi.

However, Erdogan explained that he does not oppose restoring relations with the Egyptian people.

“My position is clear, I will not meet Sisi even after the abolition of the death sentences against the legitimate president Mohamed Morsi and his associates,” Erdogan told reporters accompanying him on his overseas trip.

“But I was never against the continuation of relations with the Egyptian people, and they can meet our ministers, but I do not believe that even our Prime Minister meeting him is the right thing to do,” he added.


Generational revolution in the Democratic party changes policy towards Israel

Whilst Trump has shown up the Republican party for what it is, taking its political direction to its logical extreme, and ensuring a massive car crash at the end of the process, the Democratic party is quietly changing.

Adam Horowitz writes

The results were striking and entrance polls to the caucuses seemed to point to a clear trend: Democratic caucus goers in Iowa under the age of 45 supported Sanders, and above it supported Clinton. This is not the first time we’ve seen polls with this stark divide within the party. For the last several years we have been seeing polls showing that the Democratic base is slowly divorcing itself from Israel, and much of that dropping support is happening along generational lines as well.

In December 2014 Shibley Telhami and Katayoun Kishi wrote in the Washington Post on a recent American public opinion survey on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One of the trends they pointed out was the generational divide brewing within the party on the issue:

Generally, younger adults (ages 18 to 29) tend much more to want the United States to lean toward neither side. But among young Democratic respondents, the results are more striking: Among those who want the United States to lean toward one side or the other, more young people want the United States to lean toward the Palestinians than toward the Israelis (12 percent vs. 10 percent, respectively). This attitude is unique among this age group, as only 5 percent or less of Democrats in each older age group want the United States to lean toward the Palestinians.

This was also seen in the summer of 2014 while Israel was attacking Gaza. A Gallup poll taken at the time found young people and Democrats increasing saw Israel’s actions as “unjustified“:

51% of Americans 18-29 years old think the Israeli attack is unjustified. Most support from Israel comes from ages 50 and up

…the majority of Republican identifiers back what Israel is doing. Meanwhile, Democrats take the opposing view, with nearly half saying Israel’s actions are unjustified.

And this is was not the first time this trend was identified. A year earlier the late Leonard Fein reported on a Pew Research Center survey for the Forward and asked, “Is Israel Losing Young Democrats?” Fein wrote,

When it comes to Americans favoring Israel over the Palestinians, Israel wins by a wide margin — 54% to 8%. Alas, if that’s as far as you read, you will be woefully underinformed. For that number is only for Americans aged 65 and older (though the next age bracket down, 50-64, is pretty much the same). In the 30-49 age bracket, Israel drops to 47%, and the Palestinians inch forward to 11%. And in the 18-29 bracket, Israel is favored by 36%, the Palestinians by 19%.

This profusion of numbers can, I know, be daunting, but their gist is plain: A chasm separates Democrats and Republicans when it comes to sympathizing with Israel. And if, as some analysts believe, the Democrats’ general advantage with young people is likely to persist, that chasm may well grow.

Getting closer to the election year, last February Gallup produced several polls at the height of the controversy over Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to address Congress. Those polls also showed that Republican support for Israel was much stronger, with the percentage of Democrats sympathizing with Israel dropping almost 15% from the previous year, and that older Americans of both parties tended to have a more favorable view of Israel. Then, this past summer, pollster Frank Luntz made news with a survey of Democratic Party “elites” which found 47% of Democrats agreed that Israel is a racist county.

What does this mean today? It means the issues that Bernie Sanders has used to energize his young base should also include a fundamental rethinking of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

So far Sanders has stayed away from foreign policy beyond his opposition to the Iraq War. But challenging Hillary Clinton’s growing embrace of Benjamin Netanyahu offers him another opportunity to draw a progressive distinction between him and his opponent, and polling suggests that his emerging base would support him if he did. A November 2015 survey by Telhami found (PDF), “While Republicans overall have a much more favorable views of Netanyahu than unfavorable ones, Democrats have a more unfavorable view of the Israeli leader by a ratio of about two to one. In general, older Americans admire the Israeli leader far more than the younger ones.”

Back in 2014 Telhami and Kishi predicted this very moment, and the possibility that a candidate like Sanders could harness this shift in the Democratic base during the 2016 primaries,

While the Israeli-Palestinian issue is itself not so central [in Democratic primaries], it is part of a new Democratic identity and a subset of a broader human rights issue that Democrats care about. Just as with other issues that help mobilize Democratic voters, no aspiring politician can afford to look ahead to national elections by bypassing their Democratic electoral base in the primaries. If public opinion continues on its current trajectory, especially among Democrats, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may very well play a greater role in electoral politics in the years to come.

So far it hasn’t. But all indications show that the age cohort that makes up the Sanders’s base is pulling away from Israel. The only question is whether the candidate himself will follow.

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Syrian refugees

The Syrian refugees in Turkey (see previous post) face a much better future than the 1,835,840 Syrian refugees  in Lebanon. Turkey’s expending economy and the country’s willingness to expend resources to educate and integrate increasing numbers of them bodes well.


UNHCR statistics on refugees in Turkey


Refugees Afghanistan 3,930 3,930 3,930 3,930
Iraq 25,470 25,470 37,470 37,470
Syrian Arab Rep. 1,500,000 1,500,000 1,700,000 1,700,000
Various 12,070 12,070 17,070 17,070
Asylum-seekers Afghanistan 32,330 32,330 42,330 42,330
Islamic Rep. of Iran 10,250 10,250 14,250 14,250
Iraq 43,070 43,070 67,070 67,070
Various 5,820 5,820 6,820 6,820
Stateless Stateless 330 550
Others of concern Russian Federation 310 310

Obama betrays the Syrians

Emile Hokayem writes

What a difference a year makes in Syria. And the introduction of massive Russian airpower.

Last February, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its Shiite auxiliaries mounted a large-scale attempt to encircle Aleppo, the northern city divided between regime and rebels since 2012 and battered by the dictator’s barrel bombs. Islamist and non-Islamist mainstream rebels — to the surprise of those who have derided their performance, let alone their existence — repelled the offensive at the time. What followed was a string of rebel advances across the country, which weakened Assad so much that they triggered Moscow’s direct intervention in September, in concert with an Iranian surge of forces, to secure his survival.

Fast-forward a year. After a slow start — and despite wishful Western assessments that Moscow could not sustain a meaningful military effort abroad — the Russian campaign is finally delivering results for the Assad regime. This week, Russian airpower allowed Assad and his allied paramilitary forces to finally cut off the narrow, rebel-held “Azaz corridor” that links the Turkish border to the city of Aleppo. The city’s full encirclement is now a distinct possibility, with regime troops and Shiite fighters moving from the south, the west, and the north. Should the rebel-held parts of the city ultimately fall, it will be a dramatic victory for Assad and the greatest setback to the rebellion since the start of the uprising in 2011.

In parallel, Russia has put Syria’s neighbors on notice of the new rules of the game. Jordan was spooked into downgrading its help for the Southern Front, the main non-Islamist alliance in the south of the country, which has so far prevented extremist presence along its border. Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian military aircraft that crossed its airspace in November backfired: Moscow vengefully directed its firepower on Turkey’s rebel friends across Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Moscow also courted Syria’s Kurds, who found a new partner to play off the United States in their complex relations with Washington. And Russia has agreed to a temporary accommodation of Israel’s interests in southern Syria.

Inside Syria, and despite the polite wishes of Secretary of State John Kerry, the overwhelming majority of Russian strikes have hit non-Islamic State (IS) fighters. Indeed, Moscow and the Syrian regime are content to see the United States bear the lion’s share of the effort against the jihadi monster in the east, instead concentrating on mowing through the mainstream rebellion in western Syria. Their ultimate objective is to force the world to make an unconscionable choice between Assad and IS.

The regime is everywhere on the march. Early on, the rebels mounted a vigorous resistance, but the much-touted increase in anti-tank weaponry could only delay their losses as their weapons storages, command posts and fall-back positions were being pounded. Around Damascus, the unrelenting Russian pounding has bloodied rebel-held neighborhoods; in December, the strikes killed Zahran Alloush, the commander of the main Islamist militia there. In the south, Russia has fully backed the regime’s offensive in the region of Daraa, possibly debilitating the Southern Front. Rebel groups in Hama and Homs provinces have faced a vicious pounding that has largely neutralized them. Further north, a combination of Assad troops, Iranian Shiite militias, and Russian firepower dislodged the powerful Islamist rebel coalition Jaish Al-Fatah from Latakia province.

But it is the gains around Aleppo that represent the direst threat to the rebellion. One perverse consequence of cutting the Azaz corridor is that it plays into the hands of the al Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, since weapons supplies from Turkey would have to go through Idlib, where the jihadist movement is powerful. Idlib may well become the regime’s next target. The now-plausible rebel collapse in the Aleppo region could also send thousands of fighters dejected by their apparent abandonment into the arms of Nusra or IS.

The encirclement of Aleppo would also create a humanitarian disaster of such magnitude that it would eclipse the horrific sieges of Madaya and other stricken regions that have received the world’s (short-lived) attention. Tens of thousands of Aleppo residents are already fleeing toward Kilis, the Turkish town that sits across the border from Azaz. The humanitarian crisis, lest anyone still had any doubt, is a deliberate regime and Russian strategy to clear important areas of problematic residents — while paralyzing rebels, neighboring countries, Western states, and the United Nations.

Assad all along pursued a strategy of gradual escalation and desensitization that, sadly, worked well. Syrians already compare the international outcry and response to the IS’ siege of Kobane in 2014 to the world’s indifference to the current tragedy.

To complicate the situation even more, the regime’s advances could allow the Kurdish-dominated, American-favored Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to conquer the area currently held by the Free Syrian Army and Islamist militias between the Turkish border and the new regime front line north of the Shiite towns of Nubl and Zahra. This would pit the SDF against IS on two fronts: from the west, if the Kurds of Afrin canton seize Tal Rifaat, Azaz and surrounding areas, and from the east, where the YPG is toying with the idea of crossing the Euphrates River. An IS defeat there would seal the border with Turkey, meeting an important American objective.

The prospect of further Kurdish expansion has already alarmed Turkey. Over the summer, Ankara was hoping to establish a safe zone in this very area. It pressured Jabhat al-Nusra to withdraw and anointed its allies in Syria, including the prominent Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, as its enforcers. True to its record of calculated dithering, President Barack Obama’s administration let the Turkish proposal hang until it could no longer be implemented. Turkey faces now an agonizing dilemma: watch and do nothing as a storm gathers on its border, or mount a direct intervention into Syria that would inevitably inflame its own Kurdish problem and pit it against both IS and an array of Assad-allied forces, including Russia.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the rebellion’s main supporters, are now bereft of options. No amount of weaponry is likely to change the balance of power. The introduction of anti-aircraft missiles was once a viable response against Assad’s air force, but neither country — suspecting that the United States is essentially quiescent to Moscow’s approach — is willing to escalate against President Vladimir Putin without cover.

Ironically, this momentous change in battlefield dynamics is occurring just as U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura yet again pushes a diplomatic track in Geneva. But the developments on the ground threaten to derail the dapper diplomat’s peace scheme. Fairly or not, de Mistura is tainted by the fact that the United Nations is discredited in the eyes of many Syrians for the problematic entanglements of its Damascus humanitarian arm with the regime. Despite U.N. resolutions, international assistance still does not reach those who need it most; in fact, aid has become yet another instrument of Assad’s warfare. Neither Kerry nor de Mistura are willing to seriously pressure Russia and Assad for fear of jeopardizing the stillborn Geneva talks.

Seemingly unfazed by this controversy, de Mistura’s top-down approach relies this time on an apparent U.S.-Russian convergence. At the heart of this exercise is Washington’s ever-lasting hope that Russian frustration with Assad would somehow translate into a willingness to push him out. However, whether Putin likes his Syrian counterpart has always been immaterial. The Russian president certainly has reservations about Assad, but judging by the conduct of his forces in Chechnya and now in Syria, these are about performance– not humanitarian principles or Assad’s legitimacy. For the time being, Moscow understands that without Assad, there is no regime in Damascus that can legitimize its intervention.

Ever since 2011, the United States has hidden behind the hope of a Russian shift and closed its eyes to Putin’s mischief to avoid the hard choices on Syria. When the Russian onslaught started, U.S. officials like Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken predicted a quagmire to justify Washington’s passivity. If Russia’s intervention was doomed to failure, after all, the United States was not on the hook to act.

Russia, however, has been not only been able to increase the tempo of its military operations, but also to justify the mounting cost. And contrary to some pundits, who hailed the Russian intervention as the best chance to check the expansion of IS, Washington knows all too well that the result of the Russian campaign is the strengthening of the jihadist group in central Syria in the short term. This is a price Washington seems willing to pay for the sake of keeping the Geneva process alive.

The bankruptcy of U.S. policy goes deeper. The United States has already conceded key points about Assad’s future — concessions that Russia and the regime have been quick to pocket, while giving nothing in return. In the lead-up to and during the first days of the Geneva talks, it became clear that the United States is putting a lot more pressure on the opposition than it does on Russia, let alone Assad. Just as Russia escalates politically and militarily, the Obama administration is cynically de-escalating, and asking its allies to do so as well. This is weakening rebel groups that rely on supply networks that the U.S. oversees: In the south, the United States has demanded a decrease in weapons deliveries to the Southern Front, while in the north, the Turkey-based operations room is reportedly dormant.

The result is a widespread and understandable feeling of betrayal in the rebellion, whose U.S.-friendly elements are increasingly losing face within opposition circles. This could have the ironic effect of fragmenting the rebellion — after years of Western governments bemoaning the divisions between these very same groups.

It’s understandable for the United States to bank on a political process and urge the Syrian opposition to join this dialogue in good faith. But to do so while exposing the rebellion to the joint Assad-Russia-Iran onslaught and without contingency planning is simply nefarious. Washington seems oblivious to the simple truth that diplomacy has a cost, as does its failure — probably because this cost would carried by the rebellion, for which the United States has little respect or care anyway, and would be inherited by Obama’s successor.

The conditions are in place for a disastrous collapse of the Geneva talks — now delayed until late February — and a painful, bloody year in Syria. All actors understand that Obama, who has resisted any serious engagement in the country, is unlikely to change course now. And they all assume, probably rightly, that he is more interested in the appearance of a process than in spending any political capital over it. As a result, all the parties with a stake in Syria’s future are eyeing 2017, trying to position themselves for the new White House occupant. This guarantees brinksmanship, escalation, and more misery. 2016 is shaping up as the year during which Assad will lock in significant political and military gains.


Obama’s Disastrous Betrayal of the Syrian Rebels

The truth gets tortured and dies every day in Sisi’s Egypt


in Rome, Ruth Michaelson in Cairo and in London write for the Guardian:

Italian authorities are demanding a full investigation into the death of an Italian student whose body was found in Cairo bearing signs that he had been tortured.

The body of Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old who was pursuing a PhD at Cambridge, was found in a ditch in the suburbs outside Cairo on Wednesday night, days after the Italian government announced it was growing increasingly concerned about his disappearance.

The Egyptian prosecutor leading the investigation team on the case said Regeni’s body had been found with marks on it, cuts to the ears and signs of beatings and a “slow death”. A source at the Giza public prosecutor’s office said Regeni’s body was found on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road, on an overpass close to Cairo’s 6th October district and that his body appeared to have been dragged along the ground. Responding to earlier reports, the source added that the body did not have any noticeable stab wounds, but that other marks could have been cigarette burns.

More details about Regeni’s body and possible cause of death will likely be clarified soon. An autopsy report was delivered to the Italian embassy in Cairo on Thursday evening.

Ansa is reporting that Egyptian authorities have turned Regeni’s remains over to Umberto I Italian hospital in Cairo, citing anonymous sources. The Italian news agency also reported that a team of seven investigators – from the state police, carabinieri and Interpol, would be leaving for Cairo on Friday to closely follow the investigation.

Reports in local media said he was found naked from the waist down. It is believed that he may have been killed days earlier.

The Italian foreign ministry released no new details about the murder on Thursday. It summoned the Egyptian ambassador in Rome, Amr Mostafa Kamal Helmy, to express concern about Regeni’s death. “Helmy expressed profound condolences for Regeni’s death and assured us Egypt will cooperate fully in finding those responsible for this criminal act,” the Italian foreign ministry said. Italy has asked for Regeni’s body to be repatriated as soon as possible and has demanded that Egypt open a joint investigation to ascertain the truth about his death in conjunction with Italian experts.

While Regeni was known to be an academic researcher, the Italian news agency Ansa on Thursday reported that he also wrote about his work on Egyptian labour unions for Il Manifesto, the Italian communist newspaper. Ansa reported that he used a pseudonym because he was allegedly concerned for his safety.

His work for Il Manifesto was confirmed by Simone Pieranni, the newspaper’s foreign editor, who said it would be publishing Regeni’s previous works on Friday, including a piece written shortly before his death.

Regeni, from Fiumicello, near Udine in Italy’s north-east, had been a member of Girton college, Cambridge, but had been living in Cairo since September to pursue a doctoral thesis on the Egyptian economy. He was described in Italian reports as a passionate and gifted student.

When he initially went missing on 25 January, the fifth anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, there were suspicions that Regeni could have been caught up in a police raid against demonstrators. One report said he had disappeared after leaving his home in an upper middle-class area to meet a friend.

Anne Alexander, a research fellow at the centre for arts, social science and humanities department at Cambridge and, like Regeni, a fellow specialist in Egyptian labour movements, said she was concerned about what his death could mean for the safety of other researchers on Egypt, particularly those looking at sensitive topics.

“Everyone I’ve spoken about this is shocked by the news coming out about the likely circumstances of his death. If these reports are confirmed we want to do all we can to ensure that those responsible are held accountable,” she said.

Alexander added that concern for Regeni’s welfare had been fuelled in part by reports of forced disappearances and mass arrests that took place before 25 January.

“Hundreds of Egyptian citizens have disappeared over the past few years, often turning up in police custody and frequently having experienced torture. A much smaller number are found dead,” she added.

The Italian foreign ministry declined to comment when asked whether Egyptian authorities were respecting a demand that Italy and Egypt jointly investigate Regeni’s death, citing a desire to respect the family’s wish for privacy.

Italy’s economic development minister, Federica Guidi, reportedly cut short an Italian business delegation’s trip to Cairo, in which the heads of Italian energy companies were meeting Egyptian officials.

Guidi had reportedly met Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, on Wednesday morning – before Regeni was found – and was told the matter would receive the president’s personal attention.

An official at the Egyptian embassy in Italy could not definitely confirm that the trip had abruptly ended.

The meeting was a sign of the important business ties between the two countries, particularly following the discovery of a major natural gas field in Egypt by Eni, the Italian state-backed energy group, which was described by the company’s chief executive last year as a “game changer” for Egypt.

Earlier, the deputy head of criminal investigations in Cairo’s twin province of Giza, Alaa Azmi, had said that an initial investigation had showed Regeni’s death to be a road accident, adding that the preliminary forensic report had not mentioned any burns.

“We have to wait for the full report by forensic experts. But what we know is that it is an accident,” Azmi had said.

Regeni’s death is not the first incident of a foreign national dying in suspicious circumstances on Egyptian soil. Frenchman Eric Lang died after being beaten by his fellow inmates while in police custody in September 2013. Egyptian security forces killed 12 people, including eight Mexican tourists who were travelling in the Western Desert in September 2015. The kidnap and beheading of Croatian national Tomislav Salopek by the Islamic State affiliate Sinai Province in August 2015 was seen as an unusual instance of kidnap of a foreign national in Egypt.

In the days following his disappearance, Regeni’s friends had tried to find information about his whereabouts on Twitter using the hashtag #whereisgiulio.

A Cambridge university spokesman said: “We’re deeply saddened to hear of the death of Giulio Regeni. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

“The vice-chancellor and mistress of Girton college has been in contact with Giulio’s family and we are in touch with the Italian authorities.”

The US elections on the Intercept: its hotting up


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