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Mystery surrounds Italian student's death in Egypt as body returns home

After disappearing on the fifth anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising, Giulio Regeni's body was found in a ditch in Cairo. Egyptian officials have offered contradictory explanations for the student and journalist's death.

The body of 28-year-old Cambridge University graduate student Giulio Regeni was returned to Italy on Saturday from Egypt's capital, Cairo, Italian and Egyptian officials said.

Regeni, who wrote articles for Italy's leftist daily "Il Manifesto," researched syndicates and Egypt's labor movement, which was instrumental in organizing protests against the government in 2008 and 2011.

He mysteriously disappeared on January 25, the

fifth anniversary

of Egypt's 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. His

body was discovered

on Wednesday in a ditch near the Cairo-Alexandria desert road on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital.

Conflicting statements

A senior Egyptian prosecutor said the body was found half-naked with "signs of torture," including cigarette burns and multiple stab sounds.

However, Gen. Khaled Shalaby, head of the Giza investigations department, said on Thursday that an investigation would be unlikely as there were no signs of criminal intent, adding that Regeni died from a traffic accident. Shalaby denied that Regeni had suffered from any gunshot wounds or stabbings, according to local media.

"I am here to convey the government's condolences … but also to confirm the government's determination to shed light quickly (on Regeni's death) and bring those responsible to justice," said Italian Justice Minister Andrea Orlando standing next to Regeni's family members as his body arrived in Rome.

Neil Pyper, a professor at Britain's Coventry University who knew Regeni, decried the circumstances of the Italian graduate student's death, saying it is "an attack on academic freedom."

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (pictured above) announced on Saturday that Egyptian authorities had arrested several people in connection with the murder: "We are far from saying that these arrests have resolved or clarified … We are far from the truth."

However, an Egyptian Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP news agency that no arrests had been made.

Regeni was critical of al-Sisi's regime in his writing

Regeni was critical of al-Sisi's regime in his writing

'Feared for his safety'

Regeni, who opted to write under a pseudonym because "he feared for his safety," was critical of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's regime in his last article published posthumously by "Il Manifesto."

Al-Sisi "presides over

the Egyptian parliament

with the highest number of police and military personnel in the history of the country, and Egypt ranks among the worst offenders with respect to press freedom," Regeni wrote.

"In an authoritarian and repressive context under General Sisi, the simple fact that there are popular and spontaneous initiatives that break the wall of fear is itself a major spur for change," Regeni noted.

Al-Sisi's ascension to power came after a popularly backed military coup he led as the country's top general ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president in 2013.

Human rights groups have accused al-Sisi's regime of a

brutal crackdown

on activists, writers, academics and

journalists

critical of his rule.

Watch video 02:52

Cairo: Five years after the revolution

ls/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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