Egyptian politician arrested in Sicily exposes strains of relation between Egypt and Italy

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The Guardian reports that the arrest of a former Egyptian politician in Sicily has highlighted growing ties between Italy’s rightwing government and the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

“Italian police have been holding me for three hours near the city of Comiso at the request of the Egyptian authorities to extradite me,” tweeted Mohamed Mahsoub, who was Egypt’s minister of state for parliamentary affairs from August to December 2012, representing the Islamist al-Wasat party. “They refuse to disclose the charges against me.”

Mahsoub was stopped and questioned at Catania airport on Wednesday, before travelling to a hotel in the city of Comiso, about 56 miles away, where he was arrested and held overnight by Italian police.

He released a video stating that he was inside a police station in Comiso, saying: “All the accusations are fabricated charges.”

A police source in Sicily told the Guardian that Mahsoub was not arrested, but “stopped for identification. We can’t give more information right now.’’ Mahsoub was released later on Thursday afternoon.

Mahsoub, one of two vice presidents of al-Wasat, had fled Egypt following the military coup and Islamist purge in 2013 which brought Sisi to power. A red notice for his arrest on the Interpol website lists his full name, Mohamed Mahsoub Abdel Megeed Darwish Badran, and an alleged fraud charge filed by the government of Egypt.

His arrest is the latest episode marking closer ties between the new populist government of Giuseppe Conte and Egypt following a period of tension spurred by the brutal murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo in early 2016. Regeni’s body was found on a desert road bearing signs of torture in February that year, leading many observers to suspect his death came at the hands of the Egyptian state. In January, Rome prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone stated that Regeni was killed due to his research on independent trade unions in Egypt, and that he “had for months attracted the attention of Egypt’s state apparatus”.

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