The trial of four Egyptian police officers, accused of the murder of Giulio Regeni, has begun in Rome.
The four high-ranking security officials are being tried in absence of the 2016 killing of the Italian student in Cairo.
The 28-year-old was abducted, tortured, and killed over five years ago, in a case that has deepened divisions between Italy and Egypt.
Regeni’s mutilated body was found on a road days after he disappeared in the Egyptian capital on January 25. He was in Cairo for his doctoral thesis on trade union activities among street vendors, a sensitive subject in the country.
Egyptian authorities have alleged that the Cambridge University doctoral student fell victim to ordinary robbers.
But human rights activists say that Regeni’s injuries resembled those resulting from widespread torture in Egyptian facilities.
In December, Italian prosecutors formally put the four Egyptians under investigation for their alleged roles in the 2016 murder, and a judge ordered them to stand trial in absentia in May.
The charges against the four male National Security officers – General Tareq Saber, Colonels Aser Kamal and Hicham Helmi, and Major Magdi Cherif – range from kidnapping to conspiracy to commit murder and inflict grievous bodily harm.
But the court in Rome must first confirm that the four suspects have legally been informed of the proceedings against them.
The murder of Giulio Regeni has strained relations between Cairo and Rome, as Italy even withdrew its ambassador to press for Egyptian cooperation in the investigation.
On Thursday, Giulio Regeni’s parents and sister walked into the Rome courthouse without making a statement to reporters.
The President of Italy’s lower chamber of deputies, Roberto Fico, had sent his support to Regeni’s parents for their “tenacity and humanity”.
“If we look back over the years, and think of the enormous effort it took to get here, to reconstruct a plot despite Egyptian misdirections and resistances of all kinds, we understand how important and full of meaning” the opening of the trial really is, Fico said.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office announced on the eve of the trial that the government would act as a civil party in a symbolic gesture of support for the Regeni family.