A memorial for Regeni at Girton’s Wolfson Court. His mutilated body was found in February 2016Louis Ashworth

An Italian newspaper has doubled down on its criticism of the supervisor of Giulio Regeni, the Cambridge student murdered while studying in Egypt. The move came after a number of Cambridge academics wrote to The Guardian in support of Dr Maha Abdelrahman, Regeni’s supervisor.

La Repubblica, an Italian daily newspaper, first made the criticisms in an article from the 2nd December 2016. They accused Abdelrahman of being uncooperative with the Italian investigation, claiming that she could only remember selective facts and that she had on more than one occasion been “insincere”. The piece alleged that she encouraged Regeni to pursue a topic she knew was dangerous.

They also claimed she had little significant academic experience.

In response, 344 academics from across the country yesterday wrote to The Guardian in defence of Abdelrahman, calling the allegations “malicious and unfounded”. 32 Cambridge academics were among the signatories, including Dr Glen Rangwala, Dr Waseem Yaqoob, and Dr Monica Figueroa.

Dr Abdelrahman is a Reader in Development Studies and Middle East Politics in the Universitypolis

In the letter, they said that the suggestion Abdelrahman encouraged Regeni to cover a topic she knew was dangerous and he was uncomfortable with pursuing “absurd”.

“Not only is this not how supervision works, but Giulio had been interested in independent trade unions for years, and had experience working in Egypt before he approached Dr Abdelrahman for supervision. Nor was there any indication at the time that this research posed a threat to life,” they continued.

They also rejected the accusations that Abdelrahman had refused to talk to Italian authorities, and reaffirmed that “those responsible for Giulio’s abduction, torture and murder are in Egypt, and responsibility to determine the truth falls squarely on the Egyptian regime, and it alone”.

La Repubblica earlier today responded to the academics’ letter, writing that while Regeni’s death was solely the responsibility of the Egyptian authorities, the newspaper would not keep “silent over the lack of collaboration” in the investigation by Abdelrahman and Cambridge University.

They also reasserted their claims that Abdelrahman had been uncooperative with the investigation, and that they would get to the truth of what had happened to Regeni, including “the risks to which a young researcher who loved his work and was honoured to do for the University of Cambridge was exposed”.

Criticism of the University from Italy is not new. In November the former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, questioned whether those working with Regeni before his death were “hiding something”, and said that he had repeatedly asked the University “for clarity”.

Regeni was a PhD student at Girton College who travelled to Egypt to research trade unions in January 2016. After going missing, his badly tortured body was found by the side of the road in early February. Egyptian police subsequently admitted they had been investigating his activities before his murder

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